September 23, 2023
General News

Antioquia Governor Now Says Toyo Project ‘Legal,’ Construcion Starts

Antioquia Governor Luis Perez announced June 15 that legal issues have now been resolved with the COP$1.8 trillion (US$603 million), 9.8-kilometers-long “Toyo Tunnel” project that will link Medellin to new freight ports in Uraba (Caribbean coast).

“Having cleared-away doubts and legal aspects, this Wednesday June 15, in the municipality of Santa Fe de Antioquia, is the scene where all the partners of the project and communities that will benefit will launch the [public] works,” according to the governor’s press statement.

Medellin Mayor Luis Gutierrez, Gov. Perez, Invias (Colombian highway institute) director Carlos Alberto García and numerous local, departmental and national officials and trade groups all attended the oficial launch.

The Antioquia departmental government is putting-up COP$780 billion (US$260 million), while the city of Medellín is providing COP$520 billion (US$174 million) and Colombia’s “Invias” highway institute is providing COP$540 billion (US$181 million), he noted.

The tunnel will be built between the towns of Santa Fe de Antioquia and Cañasgordas, and it will be connected to the new “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” fourth-generation (4G) highways.

The tunnel and the new highways will provide a “vital” link for economic, social and territorial development of Medellin, Antioquia and “a good part of Colombia,” Perez noted.

“One must keep in mind that in Turbo [Antioquia] there will be built Puerto Antioquia, which will be the most important port due to its geographic location. Puerto Antioquia will reduce travel times for cargo-vehicles as never before. While traveling from Bogota to the Port of Cartegena is a distance of 1,101 kilometers, reaching Apartado [Antioquia] is only 679 kilometers.

“As a result [of the new highway and tunnel projects], Medellín will be only 250 kilometers from Puerto Antioquia, whereas Cartagena is 643 kilometers” distant from Medellin, he noted.

Launch Follows ‘Round-Table’ Talks

Late last month, Colombia’s civil-affairs attorney general (Procurador General) Alejandro Ordoñez announced that a path had opened to resolve alleged legal issues blocking the crucial Toyo Tunnel project. 

In a June 1 press statement following an earlier “round table” that aimed to resolve Gov. Perez’ claims about alleged legal problems with the Toyo Tunnel project, Perez said that a new “otrosi” (contract amendment) deal was only the “first phase” of several phases yet to be completed in order to unblock the project.

“Now we are awaiting the overcoming of irregularities identified by the [Antioquia] Controller and everything related to [issues with] the Mayor of Medellin,” the Governor had said. Those issues include clarification on whether the city of Medellin would help pay for preconstruction costs in addition to construction and maintenance costs.

“With the signing of the ‘otrosi’ we have advanced in overcoming difficulties that we have with the start of works on the tunnel, which will permit firstly a definitive design, so that the contract has a fixed price — and at the same time bring about the completion of the environmental license,” Perez said.

As part of this “otrosi” contract amendment, 2.5% of the initial value of the contract – equal to COP26 billion (US$8 million) – will be paid to the project contractor for preconstruction work, he said.

Meanwhile, the new contract includes a contingency clause so that in case of cost-overruns, the city of Medellin, Invias and the Antioquia department would share the costs, he said

The Toyo Tunnel – which would become Colombia’s largest once completed in the next decade – would be part of the crucial “fourth generation” (4G) highways that could help put an end to Antioquia’s centuries-long logistical problems.

Industrial and commercial traders today suffer from poor highway connections to world markets because of Medellin’s relative isolation high in the central Andes mountain range (see “Antioquia Awards Construction Contract for Crucial ‘Toyo Tunnel’ Project,” Medellin Herald, Oct 15, 2015).

However, newly elected Gov. Perez had claimed that the existing Toyo Tunnel project-oversight contract signed by Antioquia’s former Gov. Sergio Fajardo, former Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria, Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI) and project-oversight contractor “Konfirma” was illegal – a claim disputed by all other parties to the contract (see Medellin Herald February 03, 2016).

Lawsuit Threat

In a separate June 1 report in local newspaper El Colombiano, Gov. Perez was quoted as saying that despite the “otrosi” amendment, a lawsuit against the contract was filed by Antioquia’s Controller, which had potential to snag the project.

Perez also earlier claimed that the Toyo Tunnel would only cut a few minutes of travel time compared to using a nearby, over-the-mountains connector road – a claim flatly rejected by technical experts. Those experts say that the Tunnel will slash travel times between Medellin and the new ports by 90 minutes — a huge cost-and-time savings for freight operators.

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