The government of Chile has announced a plan to spend $10bn building and widening about 17,000km of roads in the country over the next five years.
Unveiled this week by Chilean president Sebastian Piñera, the plans include the improvement of nearly 13,000km of rural and indigenous roads, as well as a new concession for the Caldera-to-Antofagasta stretch of route 5 in the north of the country, the Chiloé longitudinal road in the south, and the Pie de Monte highway.
The programme will also include the installation of barrier-free toll systems on all the highways leading to Santiago.
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Piñera said: "We want to expand and add works that improve the roads that the country needs, for example, in cities such as Antofagasta, Coronel, Temuco, Puerto Montt, Chiloé and 15 other places that will be expanded and improved between May of this year and October of 2023."
He added in a tweet that the previous concessions cycle, begun 20 years ago, resulted in a 3.5% annual rise in tolls that was "unjustified" and he instructed the public works ministry to reach an agreement with road concessionaires in the next 30 days to soften future increases.
Chile has about 41,000km of paved roads and 38,800 unpaved. Buses are the main means of long-distance transportation.
Image: A road in Chile’s Patagonia region (Dreamstime)