It’ll be at least two years before the National Highway Council (CONAVI) replaces the modular bridge located in the community of San Fernando in Samara, which goes over the river that divides it from Nosara and Barco Quebrado. CONAVI’s press department confirmed this to The Voice of Guanacaste.
Officials from the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) and CONAVI installed the structure last November, days after the bridge collapsed due to heavy rains caused by Hurricane Eta.
At this time, building a permanent bridge over that river isn’t a priority in construction plans, according to CONAVI, since the temporary infrastructure installed in November currently fulfills its function well.
The bridge collapsed on Wednesday, November 4, after rains hit caused by Eta, leaving Nosara, in the canton of Nicoya, cut off for at least 10 days. At that time, the National Emergency Commission (CNE- Comisión Nacional de Emergencias) put the canton on red alert, since they estimated that the area received twice the amount of rain that it would in a normal November.
Two days after the collapse, CONAVI announced through the Presidential House that a Bailey bridge would be placed over the river crossing to once again connect Nosara and San Fernando with the rest of the canton.
According to CONAVI reports, the one-way modular structure measures 40 meters (130 feet) and can support up to 40 tons. Even so, it is vulnerable to future seasonal rains in the coastal communities. Through a statement from the Presidential House, CONAVI recommended that truck drivers use caution and “travel through the structure at low speeds and respect the passage of other vehicles coming in the opposite direction.”
From November 4 to 14, Nosara had no public transportation service to Nicoya and San Jose and no garbage collection service.
The bridge over the San Fernando River wasn’t the only one in the community damaged due to the natural disaster. The Municipality of Nicoya reported collapses on route 150 in Samara, and on the alternate route through Zaragoza, between Nosara and Barco Quebrado. The municipality also stated that at least 150 people had to evacuate their homes due to flooding caused by the Nosara River.
As of this date, no project related to the bridge is scheduled for 2021, either in CONAVI’s or MOPT’s current Institutional Operational Plan.
Prior to the damage caused by the hurricane, the bridge was ranked 935th in the priorities in MOPT’s Bridge Structures Administration System. That position didn’t change after the bridge collapsed.
The History of Modular Bridges in the District
Marco Ávila, president of the Nosara Integral Development Association (ADIN), said the announcement wasn’t a surprise. He affirmed that he has witnessed how some Bailey bridges in the area have been in place “for more than 15 years without being worked on.”
The modular bridges are here to stay. They are lifelong for us. That’s why we decided not to wear ourselves out with the bridge there (between Nosara and Barco Quebrado), because it will be for nothing,” said the district representative.
During the Eta crisis, the Municipality of Nicoya partially enabled the alternate road through Zaragoza as an alternate route due to the bridge’s collapse. Avila explained that this road and the municipality’s constant maintenance of the route will serve as a contingency plan for events that “will surely happen in the future.”
Instead, Avila emphasized that ADIN is focusing its efforts on putting pressure on the government to build three two-way bridges along the first 10 kilometers (6 miles) of Route 160 that are paved. Construction of those bridges had to stop last June because CONAVI and MOPT didn’t budget enough for materials for the work.
Although the institutions have already officially completed the first 10 kilometers of pavement on Route 160, work on the bridges has been on hold for more than six months and there are still no plans to resume work since the Comptroller General of the Republic hasn’t approved the new budget.
Those bridges were included in the announcement made by First Lady Claudia Dobles in November 2019. At that time, Dobles stated that the infrastructure would be completed in five months, along with the first surface layer of asphalt on the route.
“How are they going to inaugurate a new road and say that it’s ready if the bridge project is still half done? We want to demand that promise, because the road and bridges were supposed to be done, not just one,” Avila declared.