Long-awaited highway serves as a donkey track. Long-awaited highway serves as a donkey track. nvi noticias

Despite assurances, highway at a standstill

Previous Oaxaca government blamed for withholding funds

An ambitious project to build a new highway from the city of Oaxaca to the Pacific coast generated a sense of optimism for many residents of the southern state.

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But today the highway lies abandoned, the project’s future is in doubt and the positive feelings have been replaced by resentment and disappointment, despite an announcement in late 2016 that it would be finished early next year.

While everything initially went as planned, it wasn’t long before problems began to emerge and the project began suffering delay after delay.

Construction followed the shortest route possible so that residents of the capital could be on the beach in Puerto Escondido just two and a half hours after leaving their homes.

That meant going through the municipality of Yogana, about 80 kilometers southwest of Oaxaca city, the capital. In exchange for significant compensation, the community agreed to cede land so that 11.5 kilometers of the new highway could be built through the municipality.

But in April 2015, the principal contractor, ICA, suspended its work there for which the former mayor blames the state government.

“At the start of the highway project, the state government complied with the all the established agreements with the community,” Valentín Hernández Méndez said.

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“Among the complementary actions was the provision of 3.6 million pesos for construction, of which the state would provide 80% and the town 20%, but that didn’t happen. They only provided 1 million pesos in 2015 and that’s where they left everything,” he added.

Former governor Gabino Cué was in office at the time but finished his six-year term in December 2016, leaving a legacy of unfinished projects including the highway.

Since then, Hernández claims that the government has offered nothing but excuses and that even after new money was assigned to complete the highway, the state’s current governor, Alejandro Murat Hinojosa, has continued to stall the project’s resumption.

“. . . This year we asked the governor to follow up on the administration [of the project] and the response is that [they] have to redo the whole process, update it and then they will validate the budget again,” Hernández explained.

“They tell us that it will possibly be in 2018. The government should understand that Oaxaca is not ICA, that it’s the people who should benefit.”

Left abandoned, donkeys rather than cars are making use of the incomplete road and materials such as gravel have been taken by opportunistic looters.

An estimated 6.6 billion pesos (US $345.2 million at today’s exchange rate) have already been spent on the construction of the freeway but reportedly a further 3.6 billion pesos are needed to finish it.

ICA lost the concession for the highway late last year due to its own financial difficulties, leading the National Infrastructure Fund (Fonadin) to take over. Shortly before he took office late last year, Murat said that the project would be completed within 15 months.

But with the project still only just over half complete and currently abandoned both by the state government and the federal Transportation Secretariat (SCT), that timeframe can effectively be ruled out, even though the SCT was saying as recently as August that the highway was on track for completion in 18 months.

Whether the project originally slated to be finished in 2013 will ever be finalized remains uncertain although further clues to its fate may come tomorrow when Alejandro Murat presents his first annual report to the state Congress.

Source: NVI Noticias (sp)

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