Revitalizing the road system represents an important step toward Puerto Rico´s recovery. 15 months after Hurricane María, we hope the implementation of the plans recently announced by the government would bring a solid system.
We also hope that the investment to develop the projects of the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) can be completed in the short term, while working on other initiatives to achieve a road system that will enable the island to join the growth path.
We expect that the appointment of Rosana Aguilar as head of the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority will contribute to the efforts aimed at rebuilding roads and bridges. The official and the rest of the personnel in agencies related to transportation have to give their best to comply with the reconstruction agenda and complete projects that have been postponed.
There is an average of 635 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in Puerto Rico, that takes the 12th place among the countries with the highest car density. Roads are essential for industrial and commercial transportation flow. They are also important for workers who also depend on safe and fast roads to make it on time for work, school and universities.
It is clear that optimal road conditions are crucial for our economy.
Citizens´concerns regarding the conditions of many major roads are legitimate. The hurricane has severely impacted many of the roads, however, other serious road deficiencies are the result of years of poor maintenance. In that sense, it is encouraging that DTOP promise to multiply repair crews this year and that there is a $ 327 million package of state funds to repair dangerous potholes in many roads.
It is also important that Carlos Contreras, secretary of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, wants to test the quality of the asphalt for repairs and to use new construction techniques aiming at a resistant road infrastructure. It is equally relevant that $ 75 million in state funds will be invested to repair secondary roads.
The allocation for the road repair program "Abriendo Caminos" totals $ 652 million in state and federal funds. However, it will be crucial to review the program costs in order to adjust them to the rise in inflation after Hurricane María..
On the other hand, it is essential to protect trees and green areas near roads, while working on improving the road system. The DTOP must explain the reasons for delays in trimming operations as well as the reasons to cut diseased trees or those that pose risk for drives, passengers and pedestrians. Therefore, the collaboration with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources is essential.
This effort will have to be complemented with the support of investors. The "Opportunity Zone Investors Conference", this January 30, promises to bring important information with a holistic approach to promote agreements that will enable the modernization of island.
Our road-renewal project –that must also include an efficient collective transportation system in the short term- should be a high priority in the island´s agenda. It should be in the line of reforms on energy, education and health care that complement the greater objective of strongly encourage development and growth in Puerto Rico.