Responding to bottleneck traffic and daily vehicular mayhem along the length of the Carretera Masaya, the main artery for workers and students commuting into Nicaragua’s capital city each morning, the Sandinista government has announced a series of public works projects to widen the highway through Managua and construct an alternative bypass to the chaotic congestion in Masaya.
Both projects, which supposedly will be executed simultaneously in the coming months, should be completed before the end of the year, according to government sources.
The project to build an alternative road circumventing Masaya first began seven years ago with the initial expansion of the Carretera Masaya, which was widened from a two-lane country road into a four-lane highway during the end of the Bolaños administration. But due to corruption and ineptitude, the project ran out of money and wasn’t executed as planned. The two-lane bypass around Masaya, which had already been carved out by excavators and backhoes, was abandoned and left to the weeds.
Now, thanks to an $11.8 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, the project will resume in the coming weeks, according to Transportation Minister Pablo Fernando Martínez.
“One of the biggest demands we have from the population is to guarantee the safety of the inhabitants of Masaya. With this project we will decongest the traffic in the ‘City of Flowers,’ prioritizing the lives of many people because there have been numerous accidents (in Masaya),” Martínez said during a small event that was not covered by the media.
The bypass will start at the intersection of the highway to Tipitapa and pass behind Coyotepe to reconnect with the highway beyond Masaya, where the road turns to four lanes after Las Flores. The new bypass will be two lanes and have four traffic roundabouts, the minister said.
Construction of the 6.8-kilometer bypass will employ 120 people and be executed over the next eight months by Costa Rican firm MECO, according to the Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry’s webpage.
Once completed, the Masaya bypass will handle all tractor-trailer traffic, freeing up the Carretera Masaya for passenger vehicles, horse carts, bicycles, dogs, motorcycles, parked cars, ice cream vendors, staggering drunks, suicidal pedestrians with no peripheral vision, and all other forms of traffic disorder that currently ply the highway at different speeds and in different directions.
“This is a project that we have been waiting for for seven years,” said Sandinista Mayor Orlando Noguera. “The construction of this bypass will benefit all the heavy truck traffic that comes from the northern border. The road will also be used by all the cattle trucks. This will improve our citizen security.”
Widening the highway in Managua
The Carretera Masaya will also get a facelift in Managua, where the highway will be expanded from four lanes to six, according to an ambiguous proclamation by first lady Rosario Murillo.
Murillo, in her daily address to the people of Nicaragua on Dec. 28, said the first phase of the highway expansion project will start this month on the stretch of road between the Rotonda Centroamérica and the Rotonda Santo Domingo. The second phase will expand the highway all the way to the entrance of Ticuantepe, she said.
Murillo said the highway expansion will save lives by avoiding car accidents, the leading cause of death in Nicaragua. Last year, 655 people were killed in car accidents in Nicaragua, up from 513 highway deaths reported in 2011, according to police and media reports.
The first lady did not say how much the project will cost, who is paying for it, who will build it, or how long it will take. It’s not clear if there was any bidding process for the construction or what—if any—studies were done. The Transportation Ministry has not posted any information about the highway expansion in Managua.
It’s also unclear whether the widening of certain stretches of the highway in the middle of the capital will actually alleviate traffic or just create even longer bottlenecks at the various roundabouts, where most accidents occur in the first place.
Some 26,500 cars enter Managua each day on Carretera Masaya, mostly between the hours of 6:30-8:45 a.m. City planners have long called for alternative routes into the city to alleviate worsening traffic.