A piece of the Mascota-Puerto Vallarta highway in August. A piece of the Mascota-Puerto Vallarta highway in August.

Highway cost overruns at 55% due to defects

Landslides, sinkholes and other defects on the Mascota-Puerto Vallarta highway

A 10-year-old highway between the magical town of Mascota and the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco has cost taxpayers millions of pesos beyond its original construction price due to work required to repair defects.

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The 90-kilometer stretch of highway — which cost more than 450 million pesos (US $24.1 million at today’s exchange rate) — was a signature project of Francisco Ramírez Acuña, who served as state governor from 2001 to 2006. It significantly cut driving time from the state’s capital of Guadalajara to the tourism hub of Puerto Vallarta.

But in a period of just over 10 years since it opened, a further investment reaching almost 250 million pesos (US $13.4 million) has been spent to repair damaged stretches of the road, representing a 55% overrun on the initial cost and the amount is set to go even higher.

Heavy rains brought by hurricanes and other storms have wreaked havoc on the road, causing landslides, sinkholes and other damage both to the highway’s surface and bridges but shoddy initial construction of some stretches of the highway has also been blamed for its rapid deterioration.

The state’s Infrastructure and Public Works Secretary, Netzahualcóyotl Ornelas, estimates that another 35 million pesos will be needed for the reconstruction of a part of the road that was damaged by heavy rains in August.

But state Congress deputy and former Puerto Vallarta mayor Ramón Guerrero believes that estimate is too low, and says instead that 100 million pesos will be needed to make it safe and technically viable.

The highway has been plagued with problems since the beginning.

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During construction, which started in 2003, environmental laws were violated including a failure to present an environmental impact statement, leading the federal environmental protection agency Profepa to impose sanctions on the project. Meanwhile, wildlife corridors in the state’s most biologically diverse region were also destroyed.

In addition, a state government decision to avoid a large-scale tendering process resulted in different stretches of the highway being completed to a different standard and quality because each section was built by separate local construction companies.

Since it opened, millions of pesos have been spent annually on its upkeep.

In its first year of operation in 2007, the total cost of maintenance and repairs reached 71.6 million pesos while in 2008 almost 33 million pesos were spent.

The outlay was more modest in 2009 and 2010 but spiked again in 2011 to just over 45 million pesos before falling to 31 million in 2012. Expenditure dropped again for a couple of years but last year rose again when 20.5 million pesos were spent on repair work.

More recently the highway was closed at the beginning of September due to landslides on one stretch of the road while a detour also had to be built because of severe damage to bridges on another section.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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  • cooncats

    Shoddy construction is standard in Jalisco. Here are just a few example of relatively new roads so badly constructed they are falling apart: The Jocotepec bypass, the road between it and the Manzanillo cuota, the so called east side Periferico from the airport right on around to the north side of Guadalajara and the even worse part of it between Tlajomulco and Tala. For a rich state Jalisco has some of the most disgraceful roads in Mexico. It is clear the theft of construction monies and the failure to make contractors build what they were paid for is rampant in this state. And it is getting worse by the minute, Chapala highway is a wreck.

    Mexico’s road system, consisting of crappy libres and pricey toll roads has to be quite a drag on economic progress.

  • kallen

    Shoddy construction is everywhere in Mexico. I think Mexican civil engineers are probably the worst on the planet. Add to that the corruption and you have a recipe for disastrous infrastructure projects. In Baja you see an arroyo and the way the river will cut into the embankment and cause failure the next time water flows. You say to yourself, “the next Chubasco that bridge is going to fail” and sure as rain it does fail. Some bridges have been replaced multiple times. There is little effort to control or understand erosion. Its always “good enough”. On the new highway from San Jose to Cabo/Todo Santos here in BCS, no effort was made to control or mitigate water draining along the land adjacent to the road. Consequently banks collapsed and parts of road washed out. Lack of uniform grading for controlled run-off and mitigation through erosion barriers and plantings are foreign concepts and haphazard banks look ugly to boot. I think its just a Mexican thing like corruption.

  • Mark Dunn

    I would settle for everyone seemingly everywhere not shorting the actual cement in the mix while river sand is just a financila imperative?. The first thing a dear friend did, hired to paint, did after opening a can of paint was get water to “thin” it. As I told him no way and the reasons, his comment was to the effect that it was too thick. This was cultural, not corruption. Look at the custom of building something here and ignoring maintenance until it falls in. Why use thick plastic pipe when whatever will run through thin pipe just as well. It is not the long term view, ever?

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