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Concrete-coated slopes of Caldera Highway could collapse, specialists warn

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April 14th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) At least six slopes on the Caldera Highway, which connects San José to the country’s Pacific coast, pose risk of collapse or landslide, according to the most recent report of the National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models (LANAMME) at the University of Costa Rica (UCR).

 

The study found that between kilometers 37 and 48, several of the hillside slopes covered with spray-on concrete that tower over passing motorists are damaged and could fail.  Some 16,000 vehicles pass through the area each day.

 

“The potential release of concrete represents a danger to motorists.  There are sections where conditions resulting from the type of soil and the height of the slope make them very susceptible to rain erosion,” the April 5th report said.

 

The Spanish firm which holds the concession for the highway, Globalvia (formerly known as Autopistas del Sol), says maintenance of the slopes are part of the firm’s regular maintenance activities.

 

Cracks in the concrete covering of the slopes have resulted in the installation of meshing to prevent against falling material.  Areas of missing concrete show orange staining from rusting rebar in some sections.

 

A year ago the issue was warned of in another report.

 

Meanwhile, engineers have warned that the structure of some sections of the roadway itself are too weak to support many of the heavy tractor-trailer loads which pass the route daily.

 

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  • DaveP

    Imagine if they did these types of studies on the public roads… Best to put all the attention on the private corps. I guess

  • jdennisg

    This is no news to anyone with a modicum of common civil engineering exposure. All that gunite will do is to delay the failure, and make them significantly larger, more disastrous, dangerous and probably fatal. The MOPT/CONAVI groups are like climate deniers – all the evidence is right there, and the expertise to analyze it, but they just close their eyes and party on with what they were going to do anyway. Soils engineering is not an esoteric mysterious discipline, it is a relatively precise science. It is possible to analyze and then correctly engineer solutions for construction, Why this is ignored in Costa Rica is peculiar to say the least. So we have a road for a few years…..why not build one that will last? Construction only gets more expensive in the future. And fixing things is exhorbitantly expensive, and completely avoidable.

  • J. Ross Gould

    A few months after this highway was completed, I picked up my wife from the airport…she had not seen the new highway and is NOT an engineer of any designation! Driving west, her observation was, and I quote, “Who designed this? Someday, people are going to be badly injured or killed here.” What thought, planning or research went into the construction of this piece of road? It obviously presented certain challenges to the contractor yet – despite there being so many other jurisdictions in the world, such as Italy, Norway, Switzerland, British Columbia, etc. where highways are constructed through equally or more challenging terrains…I wonder if anyone went to study how modern highways are being built in elsewhere, so as to better safeguard the travelling public? I think not in this case…Set aside the danger of having the thing collapse, just driving on the highway has its challenges…with the lack of passing lanes or turn-out spots or truck run-off lanes. And the way the right lanes just suddenly end (Ceda) is unfathomable.

    • Drareg Namloh

      How I concur – I think of this highway, and all it’s shortcomings, when I’m driving through the mountains in British Columbia. And how the engineers have overcome huge challenges in building highways that one can safely drive 130 km/h for hours. ‘The Tico way’ is what comes to mind, when I see it done right elsewhere.

  • Andrew

    jdennisg: thanks for the informative post. Its always nice when somebody with knowledge of a particular subject offers to help clarify/expose. Never been on the Caldera. I go to Flamingo/Conchal pretty regularly, but my busses seem to avoid that route. Maybe they’re onto something?

  • El Torito

    Now, the question remains, is anyone going to listen and respond to what all these experts are saying? Place your bets, folks. This road has always creeped me out to the point that (as a passenger) I’ve had to shut my eyes when we navigate certain sections of it. For those keen on an adrenaline rush, Costa Rica is the place to drive. With questionably engineered roads populated by first generation drivers, the term, “rush hour” is taken to a whole new level.