The complete reopening of the Cuernavaca Paso Express will take longer than expected because of residents’ concerns about noise.
But that’s not the only concern among nearby residents: others are still waiting to be relocated or for repairs to homes damaged during the highway’s construction.
On July 25, officials from the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT) announced that a 48-meter-long viaduct would be built over the Santo Cristo Ravine on the stretch of the highway where a sinkhole appeared last month. They said the work would take around two and a half months.
But now an SCT official says that estimate was made on the basis of working day and night. Working hours have since been cut by 50%, delaying its completion, after neighbors asked that work not be carried out 24 hours a day.
There are also outstanding issues associated with the right of way obtained to build the highway.
The SCT began the process of either expropriating or buying properties in 2015 in order to widen the 14.5-kilometer stretch of road, spending over 152 million pesos (US $8.6 million) in the process. However, the occupants of 16 houses are still awaiting relocation due to questions over safety.
At least 250 properties sustained damage during the construction phase and some houses located just meters from the road appear to be on the verge of collapse.
One resident said that cracks have appeared on a wall inside her home and that while she has asked the SCT to check its structural integrity, she still hasn’t received a response. Other residents have similar stories and are fearful of their homes collapsing.
Homes that abut the highway also appear to be in danger of being struck by a car traveling at high speed and leaving the roadway.
The newspaper Milenio reports that the biggest problems are on the side leading to Acapulco. On one stretch, retaining walls divide the highway from homes by mere centimeters.
Residents are also fearful they could collapse and at least 10 families were evacuated from their homes last month as a result.
An independent expert who oversaw the construction of the highway warned in 2014 that problems would arise related to the right of way and the highway’s proximity to existing houses.
Enrique Alcántara said the SCT only had approvals to widen the highway to four lanes in each direction rather than the five it ultimately built, while the president of the Construction Industry Chamber in Morelos also says that the highway was built too close to existing homes.
“. . . normally, there is a buffer zone of 10 meters on each side,” Miguel Rojas explained.
Furthermore, a municipal worker says there was no consultation between the SCT and residents in the area or any effort to find out their concerns.
The sinkhole disaster has precipitated a blame game between Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza and Morelos Governor Graco Ramírez over who is responsible for the highway’s shortcomings and the July 12 sinkhole that killed two people.