BORN TO BE WILD!

Colombia 2013 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: ROADS

With railways an often unpractical solution due to the country's terrain and air transport being too expensive, roads are taking up the baton to move goods around the country.

The highways, or carreteras, in Colombia link the major cities of the country with each other, but, unfortunately at the moment, not much else. Large parts of the southeast have no major roads links and have to rely on minor roads to move around. The main reasons for this limited road network is a lack of funding in the past and extreme terrain that makes it expensive, difficult, and sometimes even dangerous to build new roads. These same reasons are largely why the rail network never really made any routes inland and often stuck to low lying, coastal areas and valleys. In the past, the government rarely had enough money to build new roads, and most of the annual budget was spent on repairing and maintaining the network after the rainy season. However, things are about to change and Colombia's Agencia Nacional Infraestructura (ANI) is pushing forward with plans to dramatically expand the network through public-private partnerships (PPP). In February 2013, the government began a major project with the prequalification process for tenders. There are 30 projects up for grabs to build 8,170 kilometers of highways stretching the full length of the country in all directions. It will cost an estimated $24 billion and experts suggest that in 2014 transport-related investment will account for 3% of GDP.

The prequalification round is expected to last until June 2013, but some tenders are already underway. Ruta Del Sol will be a major duel carriageway from just north of Bogotá to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast. The road largely follows the Magdalena River through the country. It will be a vital pathway from the center of the country to three of its major ports—Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Barranquilla—and vice versa. The road is being built in three sections. “We currently operate in Colombia as a concessionary for Ruta del Sol Sector II," Eleuberto Antonio Martorelli, Executive Director at Odebrecht Colombian Branch explained to TBY. He went on to say, “It is a road infrastructure project that goes from Puerto Salgar in Cundinamarca to San Roque in César, and has an approximate length of 528 kilometers." This section of highway is expected to cost Ps3.4 billion. At the moment, Odebrecht has paved 110 kilometers of the project and is expected to complete Sector II by April 2016. Ruta Del Sol will be a huge boost to the logistics sector, and it is expected that 70% of users of the road will be heavy vehicles coming from or going to the ports on the Caribbean.

Another vital project that will link up the Ruta del Sol is the Transversal de las Américas. In Phase I, it will connect various roads around the regions in the north to other major highways. However, Phase II will run from the Parauachón on the Venezuelan border along the coast through Santa Marta, Barranquilla, and Cartagena then down to Caucasia just south of the coast. “It is a project of around $1.5 billion that covers 700 kilometers," Luz María Correa Vargas, Corporate President at El Condor told TBY. The project will solve many logistical problems in the area and open up routes from major borders to ports and other vital arteries through the country. The most expensive of the tenders is going to the Autopista para la Prosperidad, formerly known as the Autopistas de la Montaña, in the Antioquia department. It will consist of five sets of highways connecting the areas around the city of Medellín at a cost of $7.1 billion. This will make it the second most expensive connectivity project in the world after the $10.1 billion Nord Stream gas pipeline project in northern Europe. The Autopistas para la Prosperidad highway network will total 1,160 kilometers of highways, 63 kilometers of bridges, and 90 kilometers of tunnels. The first phase of construction is likely to cost around $2 billion with the rest of the investment coming in future phases.

The massive project that ANI is undertaking is no easy task; however, the benefits will far out weight the challenges that they face now. Through PPPs this government has been able to afford much needed upgrades and improvements to the logistical network for both the people and commerce.