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Infrastructure 45

Colombia’s national highway agency Invias announced April 17 that it has restored 24 hours/day operations on the Medellin-Bogota highway at the site of an April 9 landslide near San Luis, Antioquia.

The new scheme employs alternating one-way traffic around the landslide site between kilometer 31 and kilometer 61 on the Medellín-Bogotá highway.

“Thanks to the work that our engineers and operators have been doing for seven continuous days, today we enable controlled passage via one-lane, 24 hours a day, for all types of vehicles through this important corridor,” said Invias operations director Juan Esteban Romero Toro.

Continuing updates on restoration progress are available via the Invias toll-free hotline (#767) as well as on Twitter (@inviasoficial) and Facebook (Inviasoficial) or on the website www.invias.gov.co, the agency added.


Colombia’s highway agency Invias announced March 30 that it awarded two contracts for road and bridge works that will join with the under-construction “Toyo” tunnel connecting Medellin westward to new and existing Atlantic ports via the “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways.

Under the deal, Medellin-based highway construction giant Construcciones El Condor won a COP$418 billion (US$119 million) contract for road-and-bridge work west of Santa Fe de Antioquia, while “Consortium Vías Colombia 061” won a related COP$389.9 billion (US$104 million) contract for road work connecting to the “Toyo” tunnel opening near Cañasgordas, Antioquia, according to Invias.

Total works include 11 tunnels, 13 bridges, four “false tunnels” and 12.5 kilometers of new roads on a project that stretches 19.4 kilometers in length.

Invias director Juan Esteban Gil Chavarría added that construction will begin between May and June 2021.

In total, 13 engineering contractors had bid on the project, according to Invias.

Eventually, this project also will include installation of electromechanical equipment inside the 9.7-kilometers-long “Toyo” tunnel (also known as “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri,” honoring the father of a former Antioquia governor who was kidnapped and murdered by the narco-communist FARC army). The new tunnel -- longest in all South America --  will tie-together the under-construction “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways, drastically cutting freight-traffic-times between Medellin and the Atlantic ocean.

Including highway, bridge and tunnel work for the new connection to the main “Toyo” tunnel, Invias funding will total COP$1.4 trillion (US$375 million), according to the agency.


Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura (ANI, Colombia’s infrastructure agency) revealed today (March 19) that the new Pacifico 1, 2 and 3 highways linking Medellin southwestward toward the Pacific port of Buenaventura will open for traffic in 2022 -- ahead of schedule.

“Next year, the three Pacific highways will be in the service of a whole country,” ANI President Manuel Felipe Gutierrez revealed today via his Twitter account.

“With 62% progress in the Pacifico 1 project, followed by 99% in Pacifico 2 and 83% in Pacifico 3, we continue to serve Colombians” with crucial highway projects that will boost Medellin’s competitiveness by dramatically slashing freight-traffic times and costs.

The Pacifico 1 highway between Medellin’s southern suburbs and the Cauca River town of Bolombolo is making eye-popping strides along a steep mountainside route, from only 8% completion in August 2018 to 62.4% today, according to ANI.

This project includes twin highway tunnels at Amagá (3.6-kilometers-long, now 78% complete) and Sinifaná (1.4-kilometers-long, nearly complete), the latter just on the outskirts of Bolombolo.

Pacifico 1 also includes the construction of 59 new bridges along the entire route as well as three new interchanges at Sinifaná, Titiribí and Camilo C. The new route connects Pacifico 1 to Pacifico 2 via new Cauca River bridges (see photo, above), which in turn are directly tied to the new, twin “Mulatos” tunnels, each 2.5-kilometers in length.

“Pacifico 2 is already at 99.13% completion and it will be one of the first '4G' [fourth-generation highway] projects to finish its construction phase to enter 100% into operation” this year, according to ANI.

Pacifico 2 also includes 40 other bridges, 37 kilometers of new four-lane, divided highway, three kilometers of two-lane highway and rehabilitation of 54 kilometers of existing highway, according to ANI.

Meanwhile, Pacífico 3 – now at 86.82% completion –"connects 18 municipalities in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas and Risaralda through 146 kilometers of highway that include the construction of two tunnels: the Irra tunnel, which has already been put into operation, and the Tesalia tunnel,” according to ANI.

The Tesalia tunnel is 92% complete and will open before year-end 2021, according to ANI.

Meanwhile, the Pacifico 3 sections between La Manuela-Tres Puertas-Irra are now 97.7% complete, including 31 kilometers of highway upgrades and construction of additional lanes.

Toyo Tunnel Ahead of Schedule

Meanwhile, the Antioquia departmental government announced March 18 that the 9.73-kilometers-long “Toyo” tunnel (aka "Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri") is now at 50% excavation -- more than three months ahead of schedule.

The Toyo tunnel will link the new “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways westward from Medellin to new and existing Atlantic freight ports, greatly reducing freight shipping times and costs.

At 4,934 meters already excavated (in each of two parallel tunnels), drillers are advancing at nearly 10 linear meters per day, according to the government. The Toyo project also includes several connecting viaducts, shorter tunnels and open-to-sky sections.

Thanks to steady and relatively rapid progress, “it is expected that the tunnel will be completely drilled in 2022 and the project will be ready in 2023,” according to the Antioquia government.

Meanwhile, the connecting “section 2” of the “Mar 1” highway project westward from Santa Fé de Antioquia to Cañasgordas just got its first of two promised funding disbursements (totaling COP$1.4 trillion/US$394 million) from Colombian highway agency Invias, the government revealed March 18.

‘Vias del Nus’ Progress Accelerates

On yet another front, ANI announced March 19 that the new “Vias del Nus” four-lane divided highway connecting Medellin northward to existing and new highways and northern Atlantic ports -- and including a new bridge over the Magdalena River -- is now at 84% completion.

This project, which had only made 1.8% progress by 2018, is now accelerating rapidly – including the crucial “La Quiebra” twin tunnels (85% complete), which will remove an historic bottleneck between Medellin and highway connections to Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.


Medellin Expands Electric Bus Recharging Network

Thursday, 11 February 2021 12:09 Written by

Medellin’s continually expanding zero-emissions public transport network got another boost February 10 with the start-up of new charging stations for its 60 pure-electric “Metroplus” buses.

The new stations, in the Patio Fátima neighborhood, enable bus recharging 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a bulletin from the Medellin Mayor’s Office.

The new station boosts charging capacity for buses serving lines 1, 2 and O of the “Metro” public transit system. This system also includes all-electric “Metro” rail, “Metrocable” aerial trams, surface trams, electric buses and a growing network of “EnCicla” bicycles and bike pathways. Furthermore, by 2026, Medellin will add the "Avenida 80" all-electric light-rail tramway serving many of the city's western neighborhoods.

The new recharging facility at Patio Fátima adds six new bus chargers in addition to seven existing chargers at the Terminal del Sur station and the Universidad de Medellín station, hence making the “Metroplus” operation “more efficient in terms of schedules, flows and recharging capacity,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“The new chargers, which have 210 kilowatts of power each, allow up to 12 vehicles to be connected simultaneously, giving 300 kilometers of autonomy” per recharge.

Meanwhile, Medellin continues to develop a related “Transport Logistics Center” adjacent to the downtown Olaya Herrera Airport. This project will allow Metro to “expand by 20,000 square meters the recharging, parking and maintenance spaces” for the city’s all-electric vehicle operations.


The long-awaited “doble calzada oriente” (DCO) four-lane divided highway between Medellin's "Las Palmas" eastern highway and the Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport just won a final approval from the Antioquia departmental government.

As a result, construction on the COP$926 billion (US$265 million), 13.7-kilometers-long project will start this year, project leader Constructora Conconcreto announced last night (January 19).

Construction time is estimated at 36 months, meaning the highway would open for traffic by 2023 or 2024.

The entire project will be privately funded, rather than tapping any government funds. Toll booths will enable developers to recoup the investment over the coming decades.

The highway will spur further development in the booming “Oriente” (east of Medellin) region including Rionegro and portions of Envigado.

The new DCO highway will connect with the existing Las Palmas four-lane divided highway eastward from Medellin near the “Sancho Paisa” roundabout, passing through the outlying El Tablazo neighborhood of Rionegro and connecting onward with the existing highway bordering JMC airport into central Rionegro.

Partners in the project include Constructora Conconcreto, Castro Tcherassi and Procopal.

On the new highway, “estimated travel time between the Sancho Paisa roundabout and the José María Córdova Airport in Rionegro will be 12 minutes, with an average speed of 80 kilometers per hour,” according to Conconcreto.


Colombia’s highway infrastructure agency Invias announced December 17 that it is gradually reopening two-way traffic on the Medellin-Bogota highway at kilometer 46, blocked by a recent landslide. 

“So far, 3,500 cubic meters of material have been removed and progress is being made in the controlled unloading of 40,000 cubic meters of loose material for safe removal,” according to Invias.

To remove the landslide and enable a temporary traffic bypass, Invias is using 14 earth-moving machines and also buiding a temporary dike to halt further landslides in the area, according to the agency.

Invias Director Juan Esteban Romero Toro added that "if weather and security conditions allow, we will keep mobility enabled in the corridor through a variant” built 15 meters distant from the adjacent landslide area.

The new variant “will allow the passage to be maintained in a bidirectional manner 24 hours a day, guaranteeing the safety of users,” according to Invias.

Highway users can dial the “#767” information number for updated information on the state of highway reconstruction work, according to the agency.


Colombia President Ivan Duque, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero and Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria on November 30 joined in Bogota at an official signing ceremony guaranteeing finance for Medellin’s newest mass-transit project: the COP$3.54 trillion (US$991 million) Avenida 80 light-rail system.

Under the deal, the Colombian government will contribute COP$2.4 trillion (US$672 million) or 70% of the capital cost, while the city of Medellin will contribute the remaining 30% (COP$1.14 trillion/US$319 million).

Once completed by 2026, the new addition to Medellin’s world-class, zero-emissions mass-transit system – already serving more than 1 million passengers daily -- will extend 13.25-kilometers in length along the crowded Avenida 80 corridor, serving 17 stations in western neighborhoods that house nearly one-third of Medellin’s residents.

The light-rail system will connect with Medellin’s existing “Metro” elevated rail network, a growing network of electric aerial tram lines, the “Metroplus” bus rapid transit lines, “EnCicla” free bicycles, and dedicated bicycle paths throughout the city, all offering clean and relatively efficient alternatives to polluting car and motorcycle transport.

At the Bogota ceremony marking the official launch of the Avenida 80 project, President Duque recalled his childhood in Medellin, “starting with the Boston neighborhood, the neighborhood where my family lived for decades,” he said.

“Today, when I see that this dream [of an Avenida 80 tramway] becomes possible, I also see that this is in harmony with a vision of a country that is not in ideological conflicts. These [public infrastructure] projects are neither of the right wing nor of the left, they are of common sense, of well-being, of the entire community.

“[Likewise], the development of the Software Valley [in Medellin], that is not left or right wing, it is common sense to appropriate technology to transform the community. The entrepreneurial projects and ‘green’ projects that we have been developing are neither from the left nor from the right, they are common sense so that we have a vision of clean growth,” he added.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced October 19 that the “Mar 1” highway project connecting Medellin westward to current and future Atlantic ports has jumped-ahead to 75% completion.

Meanwhile, the “Vias del Nus” highway project linking Medellin northward to the “Ruta del Sol” connection to Cartagena and Santa Marta is now 70% complete, according to ANI.

The “Mar 1” project includes construction of the second tube of Medellin's existing “Tunel al Occidente” tunnel (4.6 kilometers, due for completion by end-2022), as well as a new bridge over the Cauca river (426 meters), eventually connecting “ Mar 1” to the “Mar 2” highway -- including the new “Túnel del Toyo” (aka “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri”) project, Colombia’s longest highway tunnel.

“Mar 1” has a total length of 181 kilometers, “connecting Medellín with the main commercial exchange centers such as the Caribbean Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Magdalena River,” according to ANI.

The COP$1.8 trillion (US$468 million) project includes 43 viaducts, including 18 completed, 23 in construction and two not-yet started.

“The Mar 1 and Mar 2 projects, together with the Pacific 1, 2, 3 toll roads, will facilitate foreign trade to and from the coffee region,” ANI vice president Carlos García said.

“Currently, the travel time in a truck from the coffee region to Urabá [Atlantic ports] is 21 hours, but with the construction of these projects it will be reduced to 12 hours,” García added.

Vías del Nus Update

Meanwhile, ANI reported October 9 that the COP$1.2 trillion (US$312 million) “Vías del Nus” highway project heading northward from Medellin is now 70% complete.

Another 40 kilometers of that highway has just opened, part of what eventually will stretch 156 kilometers, crossing the Magdalena River and joining with the “Ruta del Sol” highway to northern Caribbean ports.

The entire “Vías del Nus” project is now expected to be complete by first-half 2021, according to ANI. That highway will enable traffic speeds of 80 kilometers/hour and will slash travel times between Pradera (just north of Medellin) and Alto de Dolores (Antioquia).

A crucial section of “Vías del Nus” includes the COP$673 billion (US$175 million) twin-tube “La Quiebra” tunnels, eliminating an historic bottleneck that has snagged freight traffic between Medellin and northern Antioquia for more than 100 years. The “La Quiebra” tunnel project is now 76% complete, according to ANI.


Medellin-based utilities giant EPM announced October 16 that it has now completed all 35 scheduled measures to slash foul odors from its recently inaugurated “Aguas Claras” sewage treatment plant in the northern Medellin suburb of Bello.

The only remaining measure (number 36) is to complete a neighborhood survey asking local people about the effectiveness of the technical measures undertaken to avoid foul odors from the plant, according to EPM.

EPM subsidiary Aguas Nacionales just presented its progress report on "Aguas Claras" to the Antioquia Departmental Environmental Council (CODEAM).

“CODEAM, which has met periodically since February of this year, is made up of representatives of the [neighboring] Bellanita community, councilors and representatives of the Community Action Boards of the [plant’s] area-of-influence, Secretary of the Environment of the Government of Antioquia, Bello’s Secretary of Environment, the Bello Health Secretariat, Medellín and Bello Comptrollers’ Offices, the Health and Social Protection Section of the Antioquia Government, the Metropolitan Area ofValle de Aburrá [AMVA] and EPM,” according to the company.

“According to the measurements of Aguas Nacionales and EPM, which are reported and monitored by AMVA within CODEAM, odors have been considerably reduced, as of the fulfillment of this optimization plan. It has been about eight months of work to overcome the odor conditions that were presented at the beginning of 2020.

“With the San Fernando sewage treatment plant (located in the southern Medellin suburb of Itagüí) and Aguas Claras (in Bello) now operating, EPM treats 84% of the wastewater coming from homes, businesses, industries and companies in the Aburrá Valley,” the company added.


Antioquia’s departmental government officially announced September 24 that the national government will finalize on November 11 a COP$1.4 trillion (US$365 million) financing package for the crucial “Tramo 2” (phase-two section) of new highway linked to the under-construction Toyo Tunnel westward from Medellin.

The Toyo Tunnel – also known as “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri” – when completed in 2023 will become Colombia’s longest highway tunnel, part of the “Mar 2” highway project linking Medellin to current and future Atlantic freight ports.

The Toyo Tunnel project – now about one-third excavated – is funded by the city of Medellin (COP$530 billion/US$138 million) and the Antioquia departmental government (COP$795 billion/US$208 million).

But that tunnel would have been orphaned from the entire Mar 2 highway project unless the national government had followed-through on its promise to fund the “Tramo 2” highway section between Santa Fe de Antioquia and the Toyo Tunnel entrance.

“We had the great announcement of the contribution that the national government will ensure COP$1.4 trillion for the phase-two portion of this project,” said Lina Vélez de Nicholls, executive director of the Medellín Chamber of Commerce for Antioquia. “This is a great effort because the competitiveness of our region depends on this work as well as the [connecting] Mar 1 and Mar 2 highways to the [Caribbean] sea.”

Juan Pablo López Cortés, Antioquia’s Secretary of Physical Infrastructurea, added that “this [financing] commitment of the nation ratifies the joint effort made for our region and is very positive, both for the project and for the productivity and competitiveness of Antioquia. Having [financing commitments] will allow us to start contracting for the construction of phase-two of the Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri Tunnel” project.

The 19.4-kilometers-long Phase Two section will include 11 new tunnels, 13 new bridges and an additional 12.5 kilometers of regular highway.


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U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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