“No More Excuses, It’s Time to Build Roads.” That is the top headline in today’s print edition of business news daily La Republica. The statement comes from Minister of Transportation and Public Works Francisco Jimenez, who has promised to kick off a new ambitious highway infrastructure initiative on May 1st, 2012.
The projects that Minister Jimenez is referring to have been gathering dust for about three decades. Money is not an issue, he explained; more than $1.5 billion is already earmarked and available. Not surprisingly, the People’s Republic of China is donating $380 million from that figure.
There are many projects on the pipeline, from the urban loop around San Jose to a modern road connecting the Caribbean to the northern region. The busy and chaotic traffic circle in La Uruca will be completely redone.
How many more roads does Costa Rica need? A lot, considering the growing number of vehicles on the road. Environmentalists are concerned that unbridled highway construction conflicts with Costa Rica’s green image. Some argue that fewer roads and more traffic restrictions should be our country’s priority. Could we get by with less highway infrastructure?
The answer may be in the village of Giethoorn in the Netherlands, where road infrastructure simply does not exist.
Journalists from BBC News Europe recently visited Giethoorn, a town where children learn to sail at the same time they learn to walk. Residents of this Dutch village get around on foot and navigate small boats through a network of canals. Giethoorn is called a “Green Venice”, a place where taking your groceries home from the market means pushing a wheelbarrow.
There’s a valid reason for Giethoorn’s lack of roads: it sits at one meter below sea level. This does not present an obstacle for the clever Dutch –pizza is delivered by boat. The boat traffic around the canals is busy enough to merit signage that can be found in the streets of Amsterdam. In the wintertime, the canals turn to ice skating infrastructure.
There’s a significant upside to living in a place where roads are nonexistent: with no cars around, Giethoorn is probably one of the quietest and greenest suburbs in Europe.