New Road Construction Should Relieve Traffic Congestion

Jessica Tasón - La Critica July 23, 2007

Traffic jams are a part of daily life for the Panamanian motorist. Every day it gets harder to move freely around the streets of Panama City, where there are 330,000 vehicles of the 640,000 total in the entire country. Some 70,000 cars use Ave. Balboa every day, and about 52,000 use Tumba Muerto at the intersection with Cerro Patacón and Villa Cáceres. So, what's being done to alleviate this growth and congestion? This month, in July 2007, an inter-institutional commission will be formed to manage several significant government infrastructure investments on highways, potable water and sanitary sewage systems in the metropolitan area of Panama City, San Miguelito, Colon, La Chorrera and Arraijan, in order to coordinate these projects to be completed within the next two years. Already in the first two meetings of this commission they have identified 73 tactically important points which aggravate problems of vehicular congestion.

The commission is comprised of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), the Housing Ministry, the Ministry of Health through the Program of the Cleaning of the City and the Bay of Panama, IDAAN, the Ground Transport and Transit Authority (ATTT), the Operations Directorate of the National Police, and the Municipalities of the districts where the projects will be developed.

Commission members meet daily from 8:30 to 10:30 in the Ministry of Public Works Situation Room, where they track the progress on each of these projects. They decide questions such as how, where, and when to develop these projects so that the public can know in advance what's going to be done so they can avoid work areas.

The Minister of Public Works Benjamín Colamarco said that the commission will take the actions necessary to improve traffic circulation during the construction of these public works projects and that they count on the support of the National Police and the Transit Authority to help orient citizens.

Some of the solutions for the 73 tactically important points identified are already being constructed.

  • The Northern and Southern Corridors are going to be joined from Tinajitas to Tocumen with two main roads, one that goes down towards Villa Lucre and another that goes down towards Domingo Dias. The first stage is the section that goes from Tinajitas to the Club de Golf, and from the Club de Golf to Villa Lucre and at Domingo Diaz down through Las Trancas. This stage should be done by January of 2008.
  • The second stage goes from the Club de Golf to Tocumen, where the road has already been expanded to four lanes, of the Panamericana between the Riande Continental Airport Hotel and 24 de Diciembre. This section should be done by January of 2009.
  • The amplification of the Pan-American Highway to four lanes to the East of Panama City. This section will be put up for public bid in August 2007 and runs from the Hotel Riande Airport towards Pacora.
  • Panama City Beltway: For the first time it will be possible to drive around Panama City in the summer of 2009 by leaving from the Albrook Bus Terminal and entering the Northern Corridor as far as Tinajitas. From there take the new road leaving the Northern Corridor toward the Tocumen Airport and then follow the Southern Corridor until Via Israel, where at the tunnel of Las Esclavas you will be able to take the new Coastal Beltway road, and then from the 3rd of November there will be a new road that will allow you to arrive directly to the Avenida de los Mártires (4th of July), Albrook, or the Bridge of the Americas.
  • The expansion of Transístmica to four lanes from Villa Zaíta to Alcalde Diaz. This project is already being built. This project is expected to be completed by October 2008.
  • On The Atlantic Coast - Via Transístmica is being restored.
  • The street that goes from the Cuatro Altos into the City of Colon is being repaired, upgraded, and expanded to four lanes.
  • In addition in the City of Colon the sixteen primary streets are going to be repaired and rehabilitated.
  • The Pan-American Highway is being expanded to four lanes in Western Panama province. This project includes the expansion of a 22 kilometer stretch of highway between Arriaján and La Chorrera, five bridges over rivers, 26 bridges over the highway for foot traffic, and a cloverleaf interchange at the exit of the freeway and the Pan-American where it is being extended to four lanes. That project should be finished in December of 2007 and will benefit more than 500,000 Panamanians.
  • Vehicle Over-passes in Panama City: There will be nine new vehicle overpasses built at tactically critical points. Already three of these bridges have been put up for public bid and are being built; one in Avenue Domingo Diaz, first in the Acacias, the second at Depot Car and the third front of Los Pueblos. In 30 days two more vehicle overpasses will be put up for bid for the second time because the first bid was declared void.
  • The first will be on Avenue Ricardo J. Alfaro (Tumba Muerto) and the intersection with Patacón, Villa Cáceres and Avenida of La Paz, which includes a clover-leaf interchange that will improve traffic in that area in all directions, to and from the Centennial Bridge and the traffic using Tumba Muerto.
  • The next vehicle bridge will be build in San Isidro, which will be a double horseshoe that will accompany the extension to four lanes of Transístmica from Villa Zaita to Mayor Diaz, so as to prevent congestion at the entrance in San Isidro.
  • The four remaining vehicle overpasses will be located in: the exit to the Avenida La Amistad at the back gates of Albrook and Clayton; one on Calle 50 at the intersection with Via Brazil and Via Israel. At this point there will be a new pilot system used that will allow for continuous flow of traffic and left turns to exit the area of Punta Pacifica and Paitilla. This same system will be implemented in the intersection of Via Brazil with Transístmica in the Paical.
  • Coastal Beltway and the "New Road": Construction on this project will begin this year and will eleviate congestion on Balboa Avenue and will created 20 hectares of parks for public use.
  • The Highway from Panama to Colon: The work on this highway will be finished in March 2009 and when it opens people will be able to drive from Panama City to Colon in 35 minutes

Colamarco reiterated that all these projects are going to cause headaches for citizens, but the problems will be temporary and when they are done they will improve the quality of life of Panamanians.