Early estimates were that a bridge on the freeway connecting the cities of Mazatlán and Durango would reopen within 45 days after it was damaged by a fire January 19.
But transportation authorities now say it will be more like seven months due to the “considerable” damage sustained by the structure after a fuel tanker truck rolled over, spilling its contents and catching fire.
The effect on the resort town of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, is already being felt.
Motorists must now take a detour around the bridge, which extends their travel time. Many are believed to have been dissuaded from traveling as a result, said the president of the Durango Council of Young Entrepreneurs (CEJ).
The flow of tourists from Durango to Mazatlán has dropped to very low levels, said Francisco Rueda Castañeda.
He also said that at least three member firms have canceled their plans to participate in the upcoming Mazatlán carnival, which starts in just over a week.
However, some relief can be expected before Holy Week, which falls in the last week of March this year. A Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) representative told business leaders today in Mazatlán that one side of the bridge would be ready to open for two-way traffic before the Easter holiday period.
Meanwhile, tourism officials in both Sinaloa and Durango are working at getting the message out that the highway is not closed, and that motorists must take a detour around a stretch of the road before rejoining it.
Opened in 2013, the superhighway, as it is called, has become an important link for Mazatlán, reducing driving time from the city of Durango by about two hours.
But business leaders say the highway has never been 100% operational.
The Durango chapters of the Mexican Employers’ Federation (Coparmex) and the restaurant industry association Canirac claim the highway has always been in need of repair, with not only potholes but structural damage as well.
The industry leaders — and the SCT — also objected to a hike this month in the toll. The round trip cost rose to 1,112 pesos (almost US $60), an 11% increase. Federal transportation officials in Durango last week called on Capufe, the federal highways agency, to reconsider the increase.