Friendship Bridge closed for three and a half months starting this Monday - Expat Community

Friendship Bridge closed for three and a half months starting this Monday

Apr 1, 2024 | Costa Rica, News & Articles | 0 comments

By Patricia Recio y Andrés Garita

The Friendship Bridge, spanning the Tempisque River between Limonal and Nicoya in Guanacaste, will be closed for major repairs over the next three and a half months, following over 20 years without maintenance.

The closure of this route forces tourists, merchants, drivers, and residents of the Nicoya Peninsula and surrounding areas to seek alternative routes and even maritime services.

Closure points, on both sides of the bridge along Route 18, will be located a couple of kilometers before the structure; both on the road from Limonal and from Nicoya; there are two more checkpoints upon reaching the bridge itself.

Among the planned works are the replacement of supports on one of the bastions, expansion joint replacements, and general repairs on one of the towers.

Starting this Monday, a few minutes after the traffic interruption at 9 a.m., the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mauricio Batalla, confirmed reports of congestion on Route 21, which allows exit from cantons such as Nicoya and Santa Cruz towards Liberia.

Drivers can also travel between Bagaces and Filadelfia via Route 92, exiting onto Route 21, from where they will join the North Inter-American Highway.

Other alternative routes include tertiary roads and even private farm roads. Additionally, some bus companies will use ferry services from Paquera and Playa Naranjo, without cost to users. Likewise, maritime services will be provided for students and individuals who need to cross without their vehicles in emergencies.

The planned bridge works include the replacement of supports on one bastion and several piles, expansion joint replacements, road surface asphalt, general repairs on the tower, lighting, and signaling. The company in charge of the works is Estrumet Metalmecánica, with an intervention cost of $1.7 million.

The plan is to reopen the bridge on July 24, just in time for the Nicoya Annexation celebration.

Nicoya Hospital Takes Measures Due to Friendship Bridge Closure

Hospital Impact
The closure of this passage also forced La Anexión Hospital in Nicoya to take measures, as it may affect both patient arrivals and their transfer to San Jose.

Authorities at the medical center are coordinating with Coonatramar, the operator of the Playa Naranjo ferry, to prioritize ambulances on the vessel and ensure that patients and accompanying individuals traveling in these vehicles are not charged, as reported by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) in a statement.

On average, between 18 and 20 patients are transferred daily in 12 ambulances to health facilities in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), such as Hospital Mexico, National Children’s Hospital, or the Magnetic Resonance Center.

“The transfer using the route via the Friendship Bridge to these centers normally takes between three and four hours, while the transfer via Route 21, towards Liberia, will take six hours, and using the ferry it is estimated to be four to five hours,” the entity stated.

At the moment, efforts are being made to expand the ambulance fleet with the service provider and with the Red Cross, and coordination is underway with Civil Aviation for potential air transfers.

La Anexión Hospital urged its patients not to miss their appointments despite the inconveniences caused by the bridge closure.

Concerns of Small Merchants
Although the works are necessary, the suspension of traffic over the emblematic Guanacaste bridge raises concerns among businesses and residents in the area, who relied on daily visitors passing through that route.

One such individual is Carlos Valverde Carrillo, a resident of Puerto Moreno in Nicoya, who has been selling shaved ice for 21 years on the Friendship Bridge.

The family man mentioned that he sets up his cart early every day at one end of this passage to prepare the shaved ice.

“I have been selling (shaved ice) for 21 years, practically since the bridge opened, first with my father there in Puerto Moreno and then here on the bridge. With this closure, we will be affected by 90% because one depends on tourists. We have already spoken with the works managers to try to enter and negotiate at least for the first few days and see how the sale of shaved ice goes with the workers, and if it is not good, we will have no choice but to go home,” he commented.

Like him, Jacinto Carrillo, a resident of Sonzapote in Nicoya, has been offering boat tours for 6 years with a small family business.

Carrillo mentioned that about 20 people depend on that business, and after the bridge closure, only one collaborator will remain, while they will have to find another method or area to generate income while the passage remains closed.

The intervention on the Friendship Bridge has been deemed urgent for over five years by experts from the National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models (Lanamme), as it has not received optimal maintenance since its inauguration in 2003.


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