The federal government has suspended some of the work needed to complete the long-overdue highway between the capital of Oaxaca and the Pacific coast, the Oaxaca infrastructure secretary said.
In an appearance before the state Congress, Fabián Herrera Villagómez said the López Obrador-led administration has declared void two of four tendering processes to award contracts for incomplete stretches of road on the Oaxaca-Barranca Larga-Ventanilla highway.
However, he added that negotiations aimed at resuming the projects are ongoing.
The secretary said the Oaxaca government has no direct involvement in the highway project, explaining that it is only charged with resolving problems related the its right of way.
The federal Secretariat of Communications and Transportation has ultimate responsibility for building the highway, Herrera said.
He told state lawmakers that the company Omega was originally granted a concession to build the highway but when it was unable to fulfill its obligations it ceded its rights to another construction company, ICA, which continued the project.
However, ICA abandoned the project in 2016 when it experienced financial difficulties and was no longer able to fund the highway’s construction.
Herrera said that since then, 3 billion pesos (US $148.2 million at today’s exchange rate) has been invested to complete the highway.
“At the start of his administration, state Governor Alejandro Murat agreed with then-president Enrique Peña Nieto on a 3-billion-peso investment to conclude the highway, [money] that is not managed by the state but by the National Infrastructure Fund [Fonadin], that depends on [state development bank] Banobras . . .” he said.
Herrera explained that the process to buy back the concession from ICA took a year and that this year the plan was to award new contracts to build the four sections of highway that are incomplete.
But, the secretary said, “on the verge of awarding [the contracts] . . . the new administration arrived and decided to suspend the tendering processes [for two of four incomplete stretches of road], declaring them void.”
Herrera said the partial suspension of the project would push the highway’s completion date – which has been revised several times – back even further and that there is a risk that the cost will increase due to factors such as the rising price of concrete.
He explained that the highway is currently 52% complete and that work on some parts of it is still going ahead.
“. . . Two of the four incomplete sections are suspended . . . the rest of the work continues to progress. There are people currently working on the completion of three tunnels and a viaduct,” Herrera said.
Earlier this year, work on the highway was estimated to be completed by November 2019 but it is now unclear whether that target will be met.
The highway is expected to reduce travel time between the capital and the coast by half, making the tourist destinations of Huatulco and Puerto Escondido accessible within as little as three hours.
Another highway linking Oaxaca city to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is also well behind schedule.
Herrera said the SCT is trying to reach an agreement with the Carlos Slim-owned conglomerate Grupo Carso to complete the highway, which would cut travel time between the state capital and the isthmus from four and a half hours to two.
Source: Milenio (sp)