MOPT evaluates a “boat bus” at the Tempisque River due to La Amistad bridge closure

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Translator: Arianna Hernández

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) is considering setting up a “boat bus” service to transport people across the Tempisque River in response to the La Amistad bridge closure, scheduled from April 1 to July 24.

MOPT intends for the trips to be directed toward students and people who need to cross La Amistad bridge for work. If they set it up, it will be a free service, assured the Director of the Maritime Port Division, Verny Jiménez.

“We are proposing that the State hire a boatman, a type of boat bus that is dedicated to taking people across throughout the day. Then you arrive at the place, get on the boat, they take you to the other side and that’s it. Later, when you have to return, you do the same thing,” Jiménez explained.

With less than a month to go before the closure, MOPT doesn’t have details about what it would cost to provide this service or about the seating capacity the boat would have.

They will obtain the information on a tour of the area that they will take this Thursday, March 7.

We haven’t even gotten that [the boat’s capacity] because we have to sit down and negotiate with a boat owner who wants to provide us with the service,” commented the official.

The authorities will check to make sure the boatman who is going to provide the possible service has the necessary permits to sail and that the ship has chairs and life jackets available for people who use the service.

“Each boat has its insurance. In order to give them a certificate of seaworthiness, they have to have policies with INS,” he explained.

According to Jiménez, it is possible to set up the service in the next three weeks because since it’s free, it doesn’t have any rate that has to be approved by the Public Services Regulatory Authority (Spanish acronym: ARESEP). Furthermore, he said that MOPT must make the decision this week.

What about a ferry across the Tempisque?

Before the bridge was built, a ferry was the means of transportation for people crossing the Tempisque River. However, the director of the maritime division ruled out the possibility of restoring that service.

Jimenez listed two reasons why MOPT decided to set up the route: there are no ferries and, even if there were, the water in the river is no longer navigable for this type of boat.

According to the official, a study of the river bottom indicated that the Tempisque River has a lot of sediment. That means that these boats can’t navigate the channel.

The first thing we would have to do is dredge to be able to set up the ferry there. We did calculations and it could end up costing us approximately $600,000. That raised the costs a lot,” he said.

On the other hand, the State doesn’t have ferries. Currently, there are five ferries in the country: two belong to the company Coonatramar and make the trip from Puntarenas and Playa Naranjo; another two belong to Naviera Tambor and make the trip from Puntarenas to Paquera.

According to Jiménez, there is a fifth ferry that belongs to the company Naútica JJ. MOPT thought about the possibility of renting that ferry, but the price for almost three months of service exceeded $700,000. The cost of dredging would have to be added to that figure.

“It had to be ruled out because using that ferry for such a short time at that price that they charged us wasn’t panning out,” the official concluded.

Last week, authorities from the municipalities of Nicoya and Santa Cruz met with the National Road Council (Spanish acronym: CONAVI) to assess possible plans for transportation by land, sea and air to mitigate the consequences of closing the bridge.

“Each idea on the table is going to be assessed by both the Minister, the President and CONAVI’s executive management and from there, generate this action plan that we will be presenting in a week, a week and a half,” the director of CONAVI, Mauricio Batalla, said during the meeting.