Costa Rica... Can't Cha Get It Right?


Don't get me wrong, I love Costa Rica, it's people, it's culture and it's overall quality of life.  But there are things about this country that continues to unnerve me like why can't "they" fix anything right... the first time?

I know what you are saying...

"Andy keeps preaching, the first rule of a successful life in Costa Rica is Don't Ask Why!" 

Hey... it's my rule, so I can break it!

Costa Rica is now my home.  Each day I work diligently to shed my over reactive, Type A ways and adopt a more tranquil way of dealing with life here in the land of mañana and Pura Vida.

The Three Times Rule...

There is a running joke (now considered an axiom) in Costa Rica, that in order to deliver a high quality, fully functional product or service, it must must be repaired or reengineered no less than three times.  Such is the case with our now infamous Varilla Bridge which connects Costa Rica's two largest cities of Alajuela and San José.  For years this bridge has been falling apart.  An expansion joint, responsible for holding this bridge together, keeps separating.  This continued separation has raised concern regarding the total structural integrity of this bridge for it is responsible for carrying over 90,000 vehicles each and every day..

So what do our incredibly inept highway engineers do... they place heavy steel plates at the point of separation.  They do this in the hopes that the thousands of cars, trucks and busses that cross over the bridge each day don't see the problem and carry on as if nothing were wrong.  Outta sight... outta mind.

However, due to the extremely heavy traffic on the bridge, the steel plates keeps slipping.  Drivers now see this separation and cautiously slow their vehicles, occasionally coming to a complete stop.  This results in massive traffic jams, around the clock, on this, Costa Rica's most heavily traveled road.

Now after several years of attempted fixes, the engineers finally decided to do something about it.  They hired outside consultants and engineers to survey and diagnose the situation and propose a viable solution.  Our Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT), similar in scope to the DMV back in the States, made the decision to repair this problem, once and for all, before somebody gets killed.  Did I just say "once and for all" ? 

Read on my friends.

From December 26 through February 21, the Varilla Bridge was completely shutdown to undergo extensive repairs.  This forced hundreds of thousands of vehicles to take alternative routes during the repair and reconstruction phase.  Now just 10 days after the contractor declared the job complete, the repair job that was projected to last 70 years has once again failed. 

It is endemic to the Costa Rican culture to avoid confrontation.   And in typical Costa Rican style, justifications and excuses begin to surface.

  • The vice ministra de Infraestructura, María Lorena López, was one of the first to chime in claiming that the cracking of the cement was due to "not enough time" being allocated for the concrete to dry. This would have required the bridge to remain shut down for some additional time.  WTF... it's already been 2 months.  What's another week?

  • Instead of holding the contractor's feet to the fire, the MOPT says "better something than nothing."  Are you kidding me?  This is how we got into this problem in the first place.

Soares, the contractor for the project, has accepted responsibility and said it will be making corrections which shouldn't take more than two days.  As of this writing, no date has been announced for the start of the repair of the repairs.


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