Why are there so many potholes in the roads of Costa Rica?
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QCOSTARICA – The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) – Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, estimates that 80% of the national road network has serious pavement problems and that create more potholes.

The potholes of Costa Rica

According to the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales (LanammeUCR) – National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models, 99% of the roads are built with an asphalt mix.

Experts point out that roads built with flexible pavements, as it is also known, provide long-term service (last longer) only if they receive maintenance.

However, in Costa Rica for the past two years, no road maintenance contracts have been awarded, effectively leaving roads “abandoned”, and the main reason for the potholes.

This is a direct result of the “cochinilla” corruption case ongoing at the Conavi, the national roads council, a division of the MOPT in charge, among other things, awarding contracts for road works.

Read more: “Cochinilla” case affects construction of road works and maintenance

“When roads are built for a period of 15-20 years and maintenance is not given, accelerated deterioration begins,” said Roy Barrantes, an engineer at Lanamme.

A caricature poking fun at Costa Rica’s potholes during the official by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012.

After a study published by the Lanamme in December 2020, it is noted that 1,382 kilometers of roads, equivalent to 26% of the roads network, were in a fragile condition.

At that time the cost of the investment in to fix the roads had been estimated at ¢235 billion.

Among the major reasons for potholes on the roads, when combined with no maintenance, are: vehicle loads, weather conditions (rain and sun), sinkholes, and earthquakes.

Another important factor that affects the useful life of a road is adequate drainage mechanisms, that when not existent (as in many roads in the country) and with no maintenance, is the perfect combination for deteriorated roads.


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