ROADS WELL TRAVELED

Costa Rica 2017 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ing. Carlos Villalta Villegas, Minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), on the process of developing and enhancing Costa Rica's transport network.

In which areas has the ministry been working over the past two years?

The MOPT is important for the country. The MOPT has five assigned councils of which the Minister is the president of the board of directors. These entities include the National Council for Highway Administration (CONAVI), the Technical Council of Civil Aviation (CETAC), the Public Transport Council (CTP), the Road Safety Council (COSEVI), and the National Council of Concessions (CNC). We are conducting important negotiations to update a few studies of transit demand for a concession that is going to be taken again, stretching from San Jose to Cartago. Some smaller ports located in Golfito are undergoing updated studies between other projects under construction. The CTP has two important projects, one of which is focused on eliminating many cars in downtown San Jose and improving the public transport system in order to lower congestion down town. Another project is an electronic payment system, which could potentially enable users to pay with cards while allowing us to obtain information through the system and observe the behavior related to the tariff regime. The project of access to the Moin terminal has already begun. It was awarded to Meco and Puentes y Calzadas Infraestructuras, a Spanish company, and was signed for USD71 million. CONAVI has around 5,500km of surfaced roads and 3,000km of unpaved roadways. Curiously, in this country we have one of the densest road networks in Latin America. CONAVI is now implementing a program of road infrastructure financed by BID for USD300 million. CONAVI also has extremely important projects, such as the construction of the Cañas-Liberia road to connect Pozuelo to Jardines del Recuerdo in Heredia, the road in San Carlos, and other key access points. The previously mentioned projects of the program are already in the process of receipts. Aside from this, CONAVI also takes on other projects with the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE), including projects such as the north beltway and other works similar to the Cañas road. COSEVI has plans for road safety, the construction of new bridges and pedestrian steps, and road education. COSEVI is an important council for the country, but is perhaps a tad invisible because it occupies a greater role in media reporting. No less important is this ministry, and we will soon begin on the PIT, a USD450 million transport infrastructure program financed by BID.

Besides infrastructure, what do you consider to be the main challenge in Costa Rica?

Here, we have a lot of potential, requirements, and also competent people; however, there are many hobbles, and we have to look for a country solution. We have an excess of controls that at times delay the execution of works. It is these kinds of constraining conditions that need to be overcome, so we have been identifying laws and decrees to improve ourselves. At the national level, it is a big task that we have as Costa Ricans, because the country has great potential for investments. Under these conditions, however, investors lose interest in Costa Rica. Then it becomes necessary to make adjustments in order to be more competitive.

What are some of the ministry' goals for next year?

There are significant projects to be executed that will be tendered next year, such as the San Jose-San Ramon road, which is an important road for the country. Equally, the road to Limon province has already been awarded to a Chinese company, which will be in charge of the construction of a 100km extension. We are going to have many projects in 2017, and the intention is not to paralyze the work in a future transition of government.