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.
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.
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)