Highway 20?? to Oaxaca
This is part of an on-going series on the new toll road from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido.
March 10, 2011
Remember the highway that was supposed to link Oaxaca to Puerto by mid 2012? Now, forget it. The project still exists, but the timeline doesn’t. Nine months into what was supposed to be a 24-month endeavor, no construction has been carried out apart from the two junctions: Ventanilla on the coast and Barranca Larga near Ejutla. There are eight sections of highway between these two points, including three tunnels.
Last November, engineers from Grupo Omega, the privately-owned construction company which has the concession for building the 104.2 km toll road, and those from their subcontractor Gama were eager to show visitors the work being done between Ventanilla and Colotepec. One could not help but be impressed by all the engineers and construction workers, the giant drill next to the river, and the enormous, earth-moving equipment near the coastal highway.
Since January, at least half the crews have left, and the big equipment has been moved 100 km away to Barranca Larga. The remaining engineers aren’t so friendly to the press anymore. Omega Oaxaca didn’t return our phone calls or answer our e-mails. Finally we were told that only the spokesman for the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT) for Oaxaca was authorized to talk to the press. Unfortunately, he was not available for an interview before press time.
It’s all about money, according to published reports and SCT press releases. Work on the “super highway” was scheduled to begin in 2009, but Omega got two extensions because of the banking crisis of 2008-2009. In January and February of 2011, José Luis Chida Pardo, the director of the SCT in Oaxaca, said work was progressing slowly because of Omega’s problems finding financing, again because of the financial crisis.
The highway was budgeted at 4.6 billion pesos as of April 2010. Half of this money was to come from Omega and the other half from the federal government. In return for a 30-year-concession for the tolls, the company was to build the highway within two years. As of February 28, 2011, the government and Omega had each contributed one billion pesos to the highway trust.
by Barbara Joan Schaffer