Panama has been planning, and executing major national highway upgrades for quite some time now, in an attempt to modernize the interior’s infrastructure. Currently, there are eleven of these projects underway on a national level, with the largest being the “Corredor Atalaya” which is the principal road transportation source for the province of Veraguas. Veraguas is a province that covers a huge swath of land, going from the Caribbean all the way down through the Azuero Peninsula, with Panama’s 4th largest city (Santiago) in the middle. The total planned construction is to span just over 100 total km of highway, which is relatively large by Panama standards, especially in that area.
Where they are at this point
Right now, the MOP says that construction on the Corredor Atalaya is around 50% completion, and scheduled to be complete by 2019. As this project is part of a larger nation-wide set of projects to modernize and modify Panama’s highways, it will run in conjunction with 352 kilometers of highway repair in the Veraguas province, and more than 2,000km in total for the country. Organizing and executing all of these projects to run in conjunction, and finish on time, is a massive undertaking, too. Panama has increasingly congested highways that currently can’t handle the demand for both commercial and individual traffic. As construction moves forward, it causes more congestion and delays by nature, which is why timing is really of the essence here. What may create a short-term discomfort will end with a long-term solution for efficient vehicle movement countrywide.
Fixing Panama’s road infrastructure is critical to the country’s growth
For many years, Panama’s infrastructural growth has been mainly focused on the capital city and its surroundings. Rapid population and business growth in this area has lead to a lot more movement in and out of Panama City. As this movement expands, the need for bigger and better roads on a national level has grown with it. Panama’s unique geography means that most of the country is rural, and hard to pass by road. Roads and highways throughout the country’s interior tend to be small, outside of the Panamerican, which is the main east/west route. For years, these smaller roads and highways haven’t been updated, and as a result, are in disrepair, and can’t handle the volume of traffic.
When the new highway upgrades are finished, it will allow a much greater volume of cars, buses, and trucks to travel through. This will not only reduce stress and travel time, but will also help facilitate interior businesses to become more efficient. In short, this will be a big move for Panama’s economic sector, especially when it comes to domestic agriculture and other production areas. Panama also has an election coming up in 2019, which makes the deadline even that much more important to the current administration. It is very common in Panama to see these types of projects rushed to finish before an election cycle, and one can certainly make that connection here.
The province of Veraguas, much like others in the interior, is trying to build their economy as a hub for industrial transportation and services for other parts of the country. This is why this project has so much potential. It could, in theory, level the playing field a bit when it comes to taking a share of the economic movement from Panama City. Only time will tell.