Authorities in Morelos have warned that there are at least five danger spots on the Cuernavaca Paso Express, a 14.5-kilometer stretch of highway on which a sinkhole appeared last year, trapping a car and killing both occupants.
During a tour of the road with federal, state and municipal authorities, Civil Protection director Jorge Clement Gallardo said that the potential hazards detected pose a risk both to motorists and people who live in adjacent homes.
“. . . We’ve found five [danger] points, we’ve had runoff of rainwater and wastewater that come together at the [highway] barrier . . . It’s hollowing out the barrier and could generate the risk of a sinkhole or the collapse of the barrier,” he said.
“. . . We also have a water leak under the Palmira bridge, where water accumulates and flows towards the highway. We’re seeing if we can put in a canal to capture the water . . .” Clement explained.
The official also said that land adjacent to the highway, on which a Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) tower is located, could be at risk of collapse.
“It’s on a very steep 90-degree embankment and we don’t know whether it will resist. We’re going to request that the corresponding study be carried out . . . to confirm that the tower doesn’t represent a risk . . . We [also] saw some drains that have collapsed . . . which causes a risk for those driving over the Las Águilas bridge,” Clement said.
One local resident told the newspaper Reforma that he blames the Secretariat of Communications and Transport for the problems the highway faces.
“The whole project that the SCT left was badly done, it affected the water channel. When it rains, it overflows and we have to remove the water from our homes. We reported it but nobody takes any notice, the SCT should respond . . .” José María Betancourt Ayala said.
Audits conducted by both the Secretariat of Public Administration and the Federal Auditor’s Office revealed irregularities in the contracts awarded for the construction of the highway, which opened just three months before last July’s sinkhole tragedy.
Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza has come under fire for his role in the disaster. Morelos Governor Graco Ramírez charged last year that he asked both him and President Enrique Peña Nieto to delay the opening of the Paso Express because it wasn’t ready.
The 10-lane highway was built by a private consortium consisting of the companies Aldesa and Epccor and cost almost 1 billion pesos (US $52.8 million at today’s exchange rate).
Although heavy rain and an accumulation of garbage that blocked drains were initially blamed for the appearance of the large sinkhole last year, a team of engineers later concluded that an old, damaged culvert was the main cause.