The Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales (LANAMME) – National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models – notes that three of the country’s busiest roads are “death traps”.
The roads are the Florencio del Castillo or Ruta 2 (San José to Cartago), the Ruta 27 (San José to Caldera) and the Ruta 32 (San José to Limón).
Generally traffic accidents are attributed to reckless drivers, but some parts of three mentioned highways are a product of poor road planning and maintenance.
LANAMME points to specific points on these roads, like the “cuesta de fierro” (the iron hill) on the Florencio del Castillo, a kilometre stretch of road that has a traffic count of 60,000 vehicles daily, where the asphalt is worn down as causing “fish tailing” and almost non-existent signage.
On the Ruta 27, the most vulnerable spots are in the area of Hacienda del Sol (Santa Ana) and Multiplaza (Escazú), where pedestrians do the “mad dash” across the high speed highway to get to the other side, notwitstanding the existence of pedestrian overpasses. There are many other high risk points along the route to the Pacific coast.
On the Ruta 32, called the “curva de susto” (curve of fright), last year alone there were more than 30 deaths recorded. On this road, besides the winding curves, the pavement must withstand inclement weather conditions and the passage of heavy vehicles to and from the port city of Limón to the country’s major market, San José. LANAMME engineers say that on this road the environment plays a big factor. The road weaves through the Zurquí rain forest, responsible for the constant slippery road conditions, affecting braking. The rain through the area also plays a major factor in pavement deterioration.
These three and all the other roads in the country have one common factor says the LANAMME: lack of signage or confusing signage; guardrails that do not exist or are in poor condition and guardrail systems not used on roads in other countries for more than three decades; and lack of planning and maintenance.
Road planners never imagined that in the country now circulate some one and a half million vehicles. Driving on any road the lack of planning for more vehicles in the future is quite evident.
In the Central Valley, for example, the General Cañas between La Sabana and the international airport, has grown from a two lane “carretera” (road) to a six lane “autopista” (highway) since its opening on August 31, 1965. The 11.8 kilometres of road that is part of the Interamericana or Ruta 1, in 1995 expanded to six lanes – the same four lane turned into six – between the Juan Pablo II bridge and the airport by making the lanes narrower and eliminating the shoulder. In addition, the six lane “highway” still has its two four lane bridges.