It was 5:30 am on Tuesday, May 7, when a “full trailer” truck (which can carry loads up to 75.5 tons) transporting LP gas skidded off the Mexico City-Pachuca highway, exploded and caused a horrific tragedy, resulting in over 20 deaths and structural damage in the settlement of San Pedro Xalostoc, Ecatepec.
Initial investigations from authorities have determined that the cause of the accident was human error on the driver’s part. They’ve also stated that both the company and the transport unit involved were registered and verified and met maintenance and security standards. The gas company involved has already declared it will fully cooperate with the government’s investigation and, if deemed responsible for the tragedy, will pay damages.
Unfortunately, for a federal government concerned more with appearances than substance, this is not enough. Vast coverage on national media has urged President Enrique Peña Nieto’s team—through the Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (Ministry of Communications and Transport—SCT)—to seem like it is on top of things by pledging to prioritize reforms that will prevent accidents like this one in the future, no matter the collateral damage of those reforms.
Anyone who has driven down U.S. and Mexican highways can attest that Mexican highways are inferior and more dangerous. The materials used in Mexico are substandard and make roads slippery. Road development and maintenance are also terrible: highways have too few guardrails, too many potholes, poorly planned intersections, terrible signaling, and sharp inclines on dangerous curves. Many of our highways have tolls, but you wouldn’t know it from their disrepair. Moreover, there is no effective urban planning. In many cases, highway speed limits are set without consideration for residential areas near the road. Houses built within 165 feet (50 meters) of a non-protected high speed highway are normal in Mexico.
On Thursday, The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a $122 million loan to help expand and upgrade a 69.7 kilometer (43.3 mile) segment of Bolivia’s Santa Cruz-Cochabamba Highway. Developing the highway has been declared a national priority due to its high traffic volume of 9,000 vehicles per day. More than 20 percent of trucks using the highway transport agricultural goods such as soy, cassava, corn, sugarcane, and rice.
The current highway, which runs from from Montero to Yapacaní, will be expanded to four lanes to alleviate traffic and facilitate the transportation of goods. An estimated 200,000 people will benefit directly from the highway construction, including farmers living between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba who transport their goods by road and pass through the municipalities of Portachuelo, Buena Vista and San Carlos.
“Due to geographical and other factors, Bolivia depends on road transportation for most of its foreign trade,” said René Cortés, the IDB project’s team leader. “The East-West Corridor is Bolivia's most heavily traveled road and carries the bulk of the country’s freight. It links the country's most important cities with Chile and Peru to the west and with Brazil to the east.”
The project is expected to advance service ability, reduce travel times by nearly a third and accidents by 15 percent by 2017. The main components of the project include civil works, road safety, technical and environmental management, social viability, and project management. Only 4,800 kilometers (2,982 miles) of Bolivia’s 74,831 kilometers (46,497 miles) of roads are paved—a little more than 6 percent.
Subway and commuter train workers in Brazil’s biggest city went on strike yesterday, paralyzing a system used daily by more than 4 million people and exacerbating already heavy traffic jams.
Ciro Moraes, a spokesman for the transportation workers’ union, said about 8,000 of the city’s 9,000 subway workers had walked off the jobs on Wednesday to demand a salary increase of about 20 percent (what amounts to an increase of about 14.99 percent in real terms). The city’s transport authority, the São Paulo Metro Company, has offered a 7-percent raise, or 4.15 percent in real terms.
São Paulo’s metro has fives lines, one of which is run by a private operator and was not affected by the strike. Of the affected lines, the red line is the most active, transporting 1.5 million passengers daily.
Transit authorities estimate that about 730,000 people were affected. Commuters without cars walked or waited in long lines for public buses. Those with cars sat in heavy traffic—at the peak of traffic, 249 kilometers (155 miles) of roads were backed up, breaking the city’s previous record of 191 km (118 miles), set in November 2004 after heavy rains. Angry subway users protested against the strike by blocking roads, throwing rocks and deflating buses’ tires and were dispersed by police with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The paralysis of Brazil’s business capital by a single, previously announced workers’ strike is in part a reflection of Brazil’s failure to invest in upgrading and developing new infrastructure. While other emerging economies like China and India also experience infuriating traffic in major metropolitan areas, Brazil’s investment in infrastructure—only 17 percent of GDP in recent years—has lagged behind theirs (44 percent of GDP in China and 38 percent in India). Economists say that poor infrastructure is one major factor—along with high taxes and cost of labor—limiting Brazil’s economic competitiveness.
Transportation systems in other major Brazilian cities, including Natal, Recife, Belo Horizonte, and Salvador, experienced similar logjams Wednesday in a separate strike by subway workers, bus drivers and commuter train operators.
Hace tiempo que en la capital de Colombia, la gente viene quejándose del caos en que se ha convertido transportarse. Aunque el sistema de transporte masivo Transmilenio resultó desde su puesta en marcha una solución en términos de rapidez, en los últimos años el sistema colapsó. Colapsó porque el número de habitantes capitalinos que supera los ocho millones y que como toda ciudad industrializada, está compuesto por una mano de obra que vive en el sur y se mueve hacia el norte para trabajar, supera en creces la capacidad que tienen los buses articulados para transportarlos.
Los reclamos son diversos. Tarifas altísimas de un dólar por trayecto, si se compara con la media latinoamericana que está por debajo de los 50 centavos de dólar, sobre todo en países donde el Estado subsidia el servicio. Falta de frecuencia en los buses, por lo cual aunque hayan servicios expresos que lo lleven a uno de un extremo al otro de la ciudad en tiempo récord, es imposible subirse en ellos sin obligar al cuerpo a acomodarse en minúsculos espacios o forzar el ingreso a los articulados a como dé lugar antes del cierre de puertas, el mejor estilo del metro de Tokio, aunque sin los conocidos “empujadores”.
Rutas que si bien atraviesan las vías más importantes de Bogotá, dejan desconectadas vías intermedias que comunican con los barrios más pobres de la ciudad, a donde ni los buses alimentadores (llamados así porque alimentan el sistema Transmilenio) llegan. Monopolio de los buses articulados que pertenecen a una empresa privada en la que por supuesto el Estado no tiene participación. Concesiones a dedo de licitaciones públicas para construir las vías por donde circulan las rutas del sistema, que se encuentran a medio camino, o que han generado incontables sobrecostos y trancones por otros sectores de la ciudad.
No es un dato menor que la discusión sobre medios de transporte alternativos como el tranvía o el metro, tenga un eje focal en qué vías de la ciudad atravesarán, y que la idea de que sea por la carrera 7a, contigua a los tradicionales cerros de la ciudad, choca por no mirar al occidente del país (Avenida Boyacá) donde por ahora no hay contemplado un sistema rápido de transporte masivo, y por donde también se mueven millones de pasajeros.
As the global marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, the pressures of manufacturing costs have risen to the forefront. These challenges drive the locations of manufacturing, where products are transported and where investors look to spend their capital. It seems that the days of faulty, substandard major projects in Central America are over as individual governments take seriously the attractions for businesses to manufacture in other world regions.
From Guatemala to the end of the isthmus at Panama, Central American nations have all realized that the only way their countries can be competitive in the modern global economy is by building a first-class infrastructure. These outputs must offer sufficient capacity to handle the demands of the movement and delivery of goods, people and services in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Every country is pouring significant funds into infrastructure, with Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica leading the pack.
Panama, which is often considered to be the “hub of the Americas” in terms of maritime and aviation, has spent over $3 billion in projects related to the widening of the Panama Canal, and another $3 billion in the construction of a metro-rail transportation system, among other initiatives. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has posted an impressive growth rate in recent years due primarily to tourism and producing high-value products. However, Costa Rica has been criticized for its lack of infrastructure and for the bureaucratic delays that surround the approval of any major project. With hopes of sustaining its current growth, Costa Rica has responded to this criticism by reforming its concessions law to further attract investment as well as signing a historic free-trade agreement with China, aimed at attracting heavy infrastructure-related foreign direct investment as it recently did.
Last week marked the two-year anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, one of the most devastating in history. It magnified global attention to the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, especially as the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince were 25 kilometers from the tremor’s epicenter.
In order to prevent these areas in Haiti from sliding into indigence, the World Bank is proactively funding initiatives to empower Haiti’s government and civil society to become more prepared against future natural disasters. Learn about how financing and training from the World Bank is helping the poorest communities of Haiti better determine risk through infrastructure and urban planning as the country continues to rebuild.
In a setback to Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup, Federal Judge Louise Vilela Filgueiras Borer ordered an immediate halt to the construction of a third terminal at São Paulo’s main international airport. São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport, which was recently ranked the worst in Latin America, was undergoing a renovation to double the airport’s capacity in advance of the World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympic Games.
Judge Filgueiras said the state airport authority Empresa Brasileira de Infraestrutura Aeroportuária, or Infraero, jettisoned a formal bidding process for the project and awarded the contract to Delta Constructions. In her ruling, Filgueiras wrote that the move represented a worrying precedent in Brazil—one which ignored regulations in the interest of finishing a project as soon as possible. The project was estimated to cost 1.2 billion reais ($700 million).
An April 2011 report from the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (Institute for Applied Economic Research, or Ipea) warned that 10 of the 13 Brazilian airport terminals being upgraded throughout the country were not on track for completion by the start of the World Cup in June 2014. President Dilma Rousseff is now evaluating an option to rely on temporary, warehouse-like modules to accommodate the expected passenger influx for the Cup.
This is not the first setback for Brazil’s transportation authorities. In July, Alfredo Nascimento, former minister of transportation, resigned on allegations of corruption for so-called “irregularities” in the granting of contracts.
“Wow, a public official actually quit on her own accord.” These words of amazement are being expressed by many Costa Ricans today in response to the decision by this country's public works and transport minister to resign after a bridge collapsed and killed five people.
Perhaps Karla González' resignation shouldn’t come as such a shock. Media and residents have long accused the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) of inexcusable negligence for its failure to repair infrastructure—a necessary precaution that could save lives. But it was nevertheless stunning to see González' bold show of responsibility in a region (and a world) where officials often shirk away from admitting failure.
Unfortunately, proof of MOPT's inefficiency came during a tragedy on October 22. That day a rickety wooden suspension bridge snapped apart while a bus carrying almost 40 passengers was crossing it. The vehicle plunged into the
Never mind that the bus—and probably many vehicles before it—was over the bridge’s weight limit, a fact González quickly pointed out on the day of the accident. But González rightly remarked in her impassioned resignation speech that the passengers “had every reason” to wake up that day trusting in the state to protect them. “But this time we did fail.”