Transport in Costa Rica


There are many modes of transport in Costa Rica but the country’s infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance and new investment. There is an extensive road system of more than 30,000 kilometers, although much of it is in disrepair; this also applies to ports, railways and water delivery systems.According to a 2016 U.S. government report, investment from China which attempted to improve the infrastructure found the “projects stalled by bureaucratic and legal concerns”.

Most parts of the country are accessible by road. The main highland cities in the country’s Central Valley are connected by paved all-weather roads with the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and by the Pan American Highway with Nicaragua and Panama, the neighboring countries to the North and the South. Costa Rica’s ports are struggling to keep pace with growing trade. They have insufficient capacity, and their equipment is in poor condition. The railroad didn’t function for several years, until recent government effort to reactivate it for city transportation. An August 2016 OECD report provided this summary: “The road network is extensive but of poor quality, railways are in disrepair and only slowly being reactivated after having been shut down in the 1990s, seaports quality and capacity are deficient. Internal transportation overly relies on private road vehicles as the public transport system, especially railways, is inadequate.”

  • Numbered highways
  • The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT), along with the National Road Council (Conavi), are the government organizations in charge of national road nomenclature and maintenance.

There are three level of nationwide roads:

National roads for public and private transport in Costa Rica 

These are trunk roads devised to connect important cities, most of the national roads are connected to the capital city, San José. Numbered from 1 to 39.

  • Route 1 (San José – Peñas Blancas), part of the Pan-American Highway. Connects San José, Heredia, Alajuela, San Ramón, Esparza, Puntarenas. There are two toll booths, in Alajuela and Naranjo. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista General Cañas: San José to Juan Santamaría International Airport.
    • Autopista Bernardo Soto: From Juan Santamaría International Airport to San Ramón.
    • Interamericana Norte: San Ramón to Peñas Blancas.
  • Route 2 (San José – Paso Canoas), part of the Pan-American Highway. Connected cities include San José, Cartago, San Isidro de El General, Buenos Aires, Palmar Norte, Neily, Paso Canoas. There is one toll booth in Tres Ríos de La Unión. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista Florencio del Castillo: San José to Cartago.
    • Interamericana Sur: Cartago to Paso Canoas.
  • Route 27 (San José – Caldera), is privately operated by Autopistas del Sol, it connects San José, Santa Ana, Ciudad Colón, Alajuela, Atenas, Orotina and Puntarenas. There are four toll booths at San Rafael de Escazú, San Rafael de Alajuela, Atenas and Orotina. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista Próspero Fernández: San José to Santa Ana.
    • Autopista José María Castro Madriz: Santa Ana to Caldera.
  • Route 32 (San José – Limón) Connects San José, Guápiles, Guácimo, Siquirres, Limón. One toll booth in San Isidro, Heredia. It consists of the following named segments:
    • Autopista Braulio Carrillo, San José to San Juan de Tibás.
    • Carretera Braulio Carrillo, San Juan de Tibás to Siquirres.
    • Carretera José Joaquin Trejos Fernández, Siquirres to Limón.
  • Route 34, Pacífica Fernández, (Pozón – Palmar Norte) . Algunas ciudades que comunica: Pozón – Tárcoles – Herradura – Jacó – Parrita – Quepos – Dominical- Puerto Cortés – Palmar Norte
  • Route 39, Paseo de la Segunda República, (Ring road), is an incomplete ring road that distributes traffic around the eastern, southern and western areas of the capital city, it connects to Route 1, Route 27 and Route 2. There are many elevated access roads, and some roundabouts. It has as much as 6 lanes but most of the road is only 4 lanes wide. There is a pending work in progress to complete the north section of the ring road, which will enable the Route 32 to be connected directly as well, as of the moment, drivers must go to downtown San José to connect to the Route 39.




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