After 11 years of talks, Panama and Costa Rica finally agree to build a bridge

Plans to construct a bridge over the Sixaola River between Costa Rica and Panama are to go ahead in June, according to an announcement by the Panamanian Ministry of Economics and Finance on Monday 7 March.

A statement on the ministry’s website said the bridge was expected to cost $15m, and would be financed with resources from the Yucatan Agreement, an intergovernmental scheme set up in 2013 to fund infrastructure projects in Central America. A further $5m would be provided by the government of Costa Rica, and Panama would provide labour and materials.

At present there are two means of crossing the river between the Costa Rican town of Sixaola and the Panamanian village of Gaubito: a Baily bridge that can take one vehicle at a time and a century-old railway bridge (pictured) that is now used by pedestrians, and which is structurally deficient. (To see how deficient, view this video)

The government of Panama and Cosa Rica will call for international tenders in April. It is envisaged that the new structure will be 260m long, 17m wide and will include a 3m wide cycleway. No date was given for the completion of the work.

The Sixaola crossing is in the north of the two countries, close to their Caribbean coast. The construction of a new bridge would allow the extension of Costa Rica’s Route 36 into Panama; at present there is only a local road network between that highway and the start of Panama’s Route 11 in Almirante, a distance of about 40km.

Plans to build a bridge over the Sixaola have been under discussion since 2005.

The Central America Data Express newsletter comments: "Eleven years and half-a-dozen Panamanian and Costa Rican presidents have tried to put this bridge out to tender. Extreme bureaucracy, unenforceability and unfulfilled promises have surrounded the project …"

Image: The former railway bridge that now acts as a main crossing point in northern Panama and Costa Rica (Arturo Sotillo/Wikimedia Commons)

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