Territorial dispute remains obstacle to construction of new highway

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Construction of the Barranca Larga-Ventanilla highway linking Puerto Escondido and other coastal destinations to Oaxaca city is at a standstill, the newspaper El Imparcial reported Friday.

Touted as a project that would reduce transportation costs and contribute to the economic development of the Coast region, promote tourist development statewide and improve safety for road users, the highway has consistently failed to meet completion targets over the years. The most recent was Nov. 30.

The few workers that can be seen in the Coatlanes region told El Imparcial that since construction activity has been significantly reduced for several weeks, many workers have gone on vacation while others were simply fired. 

The federal government has confirmed that the long-drawn-out agrarian conflict between San Vicente Coatlán and Villa Sola de Vega, dating back 47 years, is what prevents the work from continuing.

The agrarian and municipal authorities of San Vicente Coatlán are demanding that 80% of 19,000 hectares of land at the center of the conflict be turned over to them.

However, specialists consulted by the newspaper suggested that it is not political or social conflicts that have slowed down progress, but lack of coordination, bad information, absence of political will and poor financial planning.

The experts remarked that completing the highway could be achieved with good financial planning and time management.

They suggested a transparent relationship with workers’ unions be established, both to avoid stoppages and blockades and to resolve any contingency that may arise.

They said a single channel of information that would help specify objectives and dispel doubts should also be implemented. It would be tasked with updating municipal authorities about the progress of the project and, mainly, confirming their payments of remuneration for the highway’s right of way.

The 104.2-kilometer highway crosses the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca and ends at the Ventanilla junction on highway 200, in the Puerto Escondido-Pochutla section.

Once completed, travel time between Oaxaca city and Puerto Escondido will be considerably reduced, from an average of 6.5 hours to 2.5. Drivers should be able to travel at speeds of 90 to 110 kilometers per hour on the new route, which features 12 bridges and viaducts, four tunnels, nine junctions and two toll booths.

The contract for building the two-lane highway was originally awarded to Grupo Omega in 2007 for 4.64 billion pesos, with a 30-year-concession to operate it. It was to be completed by 2010, a date that was subsequently changed to 2012.

But Omega dropped the project for financial reasons derived from the international economic crisis, and the construction firm ICA took over in 2012. It walked away from the job three years later due to its own financial difficulties.

Now the project, said to be 84% complete as of early October, is in the hands of the National Infrastructure Fund (Fonadin), the latest chapter in a seemingly never-ending story.

With reports by El Imparcial


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