If you are hoping that Panama’s traffic chaos is going to disappear any time soon, don’t hold your breath. Multiple explanations are being aired to explain major delays in construction projects.
A large part of the traffic problem has been blamed on road re-alignment projects, compounded by the metro subway construction works.
But although the rush is on to finish projects before the end of the present administration ,five out of nine in the works are seriously behind schedule, from road works across the city to a rehabilitation project in Casco Viejo in the hands of government favored Norbeto Odebrecht.
Blame in many locations has been transferred to the relocation of utilities (water lines, electrical and telephone wires).
Of the nine projects that are part of the second stage of the new road network of the city of Panama, being implemented by the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), five are delayed due to changes of public utilities, diversion of structures that have to be built before starting work, and duplication of structures at the same intersection.
Carlos Ho, director of Special Projects MOP, told La Prensa, for an in depth study of the problem that projects for vehicular bridges that are being developed on National Avenue and Avenida Omar Torrijos, Martyrs Avenue to Gorgas Avenue and Avenue Omar Torrijos have been faced with unforeseen relocation of power lines..
The National Avenue and Avenue of the Martyrs projects that were to be delivered on August 4 are 60% and 77%,complete respectively.
Another project presenting complications with public utilities is the construction of the viaduct on Via Brazil section I (linking Brazil with Ricardo J. Alfaro It has advance force only 24%, according to the MOP.
"Here's a situation that has substantially complicated the project with the relocation of electric and telephone cables," said Ho.
Currently, the MOP is negotiating with the utilities to relocate the wires, poles and even take care of the burial of cables.
On the other hand, there are water lines not marked on the plans, that have to be relocated, leading to further delays.
Meanwhile, on the second section of Via Brazil (between Calle 50 and via Israel) is an area in which work is also underway on the project to clean up the Bay of Panama.
According to the office of the Bay of Panama clean up operation. the works will take place right between the river Matasnillo River bridgeand Calle 50.
Work on that will begin October 24, and consists of building a mass collector to eliminate wastewater discharges in the area that currently pollutes the river Matasnillo. The water will be taken to the treatment plant in Juan Diaz.
The construction of the pit, will take priority over the work of MOP, and traffic will be further reduced in the Via Brazil area.
Representatives of he MOP and the Bay sanitation projects and the Transit Authority (ATTT) are meeting to check diversion plans to reduce vehicular impact.
This project shows good progress of work of 16.5%, said Ho.
The proposed widening of Avenida Domingo Diaz, has been held up because they were working on the construction of the Metro Bus stops and checking details of the proposed second line of the Metro
This work was awarded to the Consortium Civil Engineers and Associates, Inc., and Meco, SA for $237.5 million.
The project consists of the rehabilitation of four existing lanes and the widening of a lane on each side, plus the construction of eight pedestrian and three vehicle bridges. The project has advanced 15%.
Meanwhile space has to be made for the construction of the new Metro bus stops, originally promised by the government for September.
The last delayed work is the Heritage Preservation project , undertaken by Norberto Odebrecht, in Casco Viejo.
The MOP reported that the project was scheduled to end in June 2013 and will extend until September of that year. Three businesses have gone under this year and others hang on with a 40% decrease in customers.
Ho said the delay is because in each phase of construction anthropologists and historians must document every discovery made during the work.
In Casco Viejo streets are getting new paving and , digging is being done to accommodate public utilities and construction of a building of 110 parking places, among other components.
Horacio Robles, president of the Panamanian Society of Engineers and Architects believes there is a disturbing delay in the works.
Robles believes that the problem with the MOP with the relocation of utilities is that you need to update the existing plans of these services, such as those of water and sewer lines from the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers.
He added that telephone and electricity companies must have plans for location of public services they offer, that would facilitate the relocation.
The former Minister of Public Works, Jose Dominguez, said authorities in each project should have prepared alternative to the effect of the new structure on vehicular traffic.
"Now the government says you have to save, but not being held accountable for overspending on fuel because of congestion," said Dominguez
Gaston Regis, president of the Panamanian Chamber of Construction, the delay in the works for the relocation of utilities is common in construction.
He also noted that there are many phone companies and digital cables installed with connections throughout the city with which the authorities have to deal.