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Infrastructure 52

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.

The Medellin-based Covipacifico construction consortium announced September 18 that the “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin’s southern suburbs and the Cauca River town of Bolombolo is now 50% complete.

The COP$2.78 trillion (US$725 million) project, once completed in 2023, would dramatically reduce transit times between Medellin and southwestern Antioquia, connecting to “Pacifico 2” and “Pacifico 3” super-highways all the way to the Pacific port of Buenaventura.

According to Covipacifico, 65 bridges partially or totally built along the route so far account for 62% of total Pacifico 1 progress, while road completions account for more than 42%, with the result that the whole project is now at 50% completion.

“We are very satisfied with the rhythm of execution achieved in the works,” having largely overcome challenges including strict protocols for Covid-19 prevention as well as two significant landslides in two separate areas, project manager Mauricio Millán Drews noted.

According to Covipacifico, “in the four functional units that make up the project, there is permanent and parallel progress between the municipalities of Amagá and Venecia, where the first 5.4 kilometers of that section are near completion,” including “definitive lining of the La Sinifaná tunnel (on both sides) and more progress in road paving. Work also continues on electrical lighting installations, as well as fire prevention and drainage networks.”

Progress also includes “completion of eight of 10 bridges between the town of Bolombolo and La Sinifaná “ while in total, “Pacífico 1 records a notable advance in the construction of 65 bridges, 18 of which are already completed.”

As for construction of 23 kilometers of new highway being built on steep mountainside slopes, Covipacifico explained that it is carrying-out stabilization works on slopes and embankments, as well as building new road interchanges at Sinifaná, Titiribí and Camilo C.

“Among the distinctive works is the Amagá tunnel – actually two tubes -- each tube with a distance of 3.6 kilometers, for a total length of 7.2 kilometers, of which 4.3 kilometers are already excavated,” according to Covipacifico.


Agencia Nacional de Infraestrucutura (ANI, Colombia’s national infrastructure agency) announced August 21 that the COP$1.7 trillion (US$443 million) “Pacifico 2” highway linking Medellin and southwest Antioquia to the Pacific port of Buenaventura is now 89% complete.

The 96.5-kilometers-long “Pacífico 2” project is linked to “Pacific 3” southward and “Pacifico 1” northward, enabling high-speed traffic through southwestern Antioquia -- and crucial for reducing the cost of freight traffic between Medellin and ocean ports.

Pacifico 2 includes the 2.5-kilometers-long, four-lane, twin-tube “Mulatos” tunnel, as well as 40 bridges, 37 kilometers of new, four-lane divided highway, three kilometers of new two-lane highway, rehabilitation of 54 kilometers of existing highways and operation and maintenance of 71 kilometers of highway, according to ANI.

“The Mulatos tunnel is 81% complete and the [new] Cauca Bridge is currently 90% complete,” according to ANI.

“Functional Unit 2 between Puente Iglesias and the beginning of the Mulatos Tunnel has registered 91% progress,” while “Functional Unit 4” – which runs from the Mulatos Tunnel to the Bolombolo sector of Antioquia “is now 77% complete,” according to ANI.

“Functional Unit 1 in the La Pintada and Puente Iglesias sectors and Functional Unit 5 between La Pintada and Primavera are finished and in operation and maintenance,” the agency added.

“With the chain of projects Pacífico 1, 2 and 3, foreign trade to and from the coffee region and Medellín will be facilitated. Currently, the travel time in a truck from Medellín to [the Pacific port of] Buenaventura, takes 15 hours. With the construction of these projects it will be reduced to 10 hours,” according to ANI.

Landslide Near ‘La Siria’ Won’t Cause Delays

Meanwhile, ANI and “Pacifico 1”construction contractor Covipacifico announced August 17 that a recent landslide on one of the slopes under construction near “La Siria” -- between bridges 18 and 19 of the Pacífico 1 project – will be cleared and restored in coming months, but won’t delay the over-all project.

The landslide wrecked a new section of highway being built between Bolombolo and Medellín -- without damaging the existing highway -- “so there is no impact on mobility to and from Southwest Antioquia” and Medellin, according to ANI.

The "La Siria" landslide is the second such event over the past 15 months on the 50-kilometers-long, four-lane divided Pacifico 1 project, with an earlier event at Sinifaná having already been cleared.

Because of these two landslides, ANI and Covipacifico just launched a new audit of other potentially vulnerable portions along the route “to guarantee that once the works are concluded they do not present any type of affectation,” according to ANI.

The COP$2.78 trillion (US$725 million) Pacífico 1 project is 46.6% complete and the developers aim to complete it by 2023.

Colombia President Ivan Duque announced August 13 that the crucial “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways -- including the Toyo Tunnel and Tunel de Occidente -- as well as the proposed “Puerto Antioquia” freight port on the Caribbean are his highest priorities for accelerated advance or completion before his term ends in 2022.

Speaking August 13 at a ceremony here marking the just-completed tunnel boring at Medellin’s second “Tunel de Occidente” (West Tunnel) linking Medellin westward to Santa Fe de Antioquia, Duque confirmed that his administration also aims to ensure completion of tunnel boring of Colombia’s longest highway tunnel – the 19.4-kilometers-long Toyo Tunnel in Antioquia -- which today is only one-sixth-of-the way completed.

Transport Secretary Ángela María Orozco had earlier confirmed that the Colombian government would arrange COP$1.4 trillion (US$370 million) in credits for the Toyo tunnel (also known as Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri) by end-September 2020.

The new, 4.6-kilometers-long, second Tunel de Occidente tube --  adding two more lanes adjacent to the existing tube -- has a projected cost of COP$420 billion (US$108 million) and is due for completion by end-2022, according to contractor Devimar.

Having the second tube completed will enable four lines of divided highway as part of the high-speed “Mar 1” project linking Medellin westward to current and future Atlantic ports. The existing highway tunnel is restricted to two-way traffic on single lanes and suffers much congestion.

“Mar 1” eventually will link to “Mar 2” (including the Toyo Tunnel) all the way to the Caribbean, slashing freight traffic times between Medellin and Atlantic ports to just four hours, rather than eight hours currently.

The "Mar 1” project (already 70% complete) and the connecting “Mar 2” highway projects are projected to be completed by 2023, assuming that Toyo Tunnel finance indeed is finalized promptly, as promised. 

The long-awaited development of the “Puerto Antioquia” ocean-freight port near Turbo, Antioquia, just got a US$110 million term-loan investment from New York-based Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).

According to the GIP announcement – which project developer Andres Felipe Bustos of Medellin-based Puertos Inversiones y Obras (PioSAS) confirmed to Medellin Herald as factually accurate – “Puerto Antioquia” development is led by a consortium consisting of France-based CMA Terminal Holdings S.A.S, shipping line Eiffage S.A, a "top-tier construction company," and a "private consortium of banana producers and exporters," along with PioSAS.

“The GIP holding company investment -- together with senior debt provided by a group of multilateral banks and equity capital from the [project] sponsors -- will be utilized to fund construction of an approximately US$725 million port facilities project,” according to GIP.

“The project is underpinned by long-term volume commitments with the consortium and will be strategically located as Colombia’s closest port to the Atlantic Coast. It is geographically positioned to capture a large share of dry-containers traffic originated from important economic regions of Colombia, including Medellin, Bogota, the coffee axis and other hinterland regions,” GIP added..

“Puerto Antioquia is a landmark project for Colombia and is expected to change the dynamics of trade in the country given its strategic location,” according to Jennifer Powers, GIP partner and Chair of GIP Credit. “It is expected to capture immediate cargo and create a significant positive impact in the Uraba region [of Antioquia]. The port will provide significant socio-economic impact to the region, as evidenced by multilateral financing support from its senior lender, one of the most important banks in Latin America.”

CMA Terminal chief Laurent Martens added: “We are very happy with this continuing partnership with GIP. They have been a resourceful and proactive partner throughout development. We very much appreciate GIP’s unabated support in spite of current market conditions to close the financing of this ambitious project.”

Financing Follows 30-Year Concession Deal

Colombia Vice President Marta Lucia Ramírez announced last year (March 20, 2019) that the new port would link to the under-construction “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways connecting Medellin westward to new and existing freight ports on the Caribbean.

Project developers foresee the mobilization of up-to-6.6-million tons of cargo per year, Vice President Ramírez said. Once completed, Puerto Antioquia “will become the closest Colombian Caribbean terminal to Cundinamarca and the coffee region,” she added.

At the time, Colombia’s Transport Ministry had estimated that construction costs on the project would total around US$300 million, covering dock works with five ship-berthing positions, plus a double-lane carriageway viaduct for the transit of tractor-trailers between the berthing platform and land-side terminal facilities.

“The port terminal will be designed to serve container ships of up to 366 meters in length and 14,000 TEUs [standard 20-feet-long shipping containers],” according to the press bulletin accompanying Vice President Ramírez’s remarks.

“The port, which [would be] located in the sector known as Bahía Colombia, near the township of Nueva Colonia and on the banks of the León River, will be connected to the Autopista Mar 1 and Autopista Mar 2 highway projects, and will specialize in general cargo, vehicles and containerized products such as cereals, plantains and bananas, among others,” according to the bulletin.

Civil works for the project would be carried out by a consortium made up of Eiffage Infraestructuras of France and Termotécnica Coindustrial of Colombia, according to that bulletin.

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced June 17 that the crucial “Pacifico 1” highway connecting Medellin’s southern suburbs to the Cauca River town of Bolombolo is now open 24 hours/day.

A 300-meters-long section of the existing two-lane highway-- as well as an under-construction section of what eventually will become a four-lane divided highway -- were wiped-out by a huge landslide at Sinifaná in May 2019.

The Medellin-based “Covipacífico” construction consortium that’s building “Pacifico 1” partially restored one of the damaged sections -- enabling a limited reopening of the Sinifaná section -- in December 2019.

Since then, continuing advances in restoration work now enable 24 hours/day operations in both directions on that section of the old two-lane highway, according to ANI.

However, routine, occasional closings for continuing construction work -- as well precautionary closings triggered by landslide-threatening deluges -- can be expected, ANI cautioned.

To date, restoration and landslide-prevention works include “installation of trenches, construction of drains, adaptation of terraces and the unblocking of the Sinifaná [river] gorge,” according to ANI.

Medellin-based electric power giant EPM on June 11 unveiled a COP$4 trillion (US$1.06 billion) capital investment program for its power distribution subsidiaries in six Colombian departments (states).

The investments “seek to contribute to the improvement of service quality, minimizing the number of interruptions and their duration,” according to EPM.

“For this, infrastructure projects are being carried out with the aim of extending networks to expand coverage, modernize and expand substations to improve reliability, and acquisition of new technologies that allow optimizing the system, timely delivery of information and greater automation,” according to the company.

The investments will cover all its domestic power-distribution subsidiaries in Antioquia, Norte de Santander, Santander, Quindio, Caldas and Risaralda departments, including: CENS (Centrales Eléctricas del Norte de Santander), ESSA (Electrificadora de Santander), CHEC (Central Hidroeléctrica de Caldas), EDEQ (Empresa de Energía del Quindío) and EPM (Empresas Publicas de Medellin).

EPM group already invested COP$742 billion (US$197 million) in Colombia power infrastructure in 2019, the company noted. For 2020, projected investments total COP$1.3 trillion (US$355 million), while for the 2020-2024 term, investments will total COP$4 trillion (US$1.06 billion).

Beyond just infrastructure, investment areas also include “research and innovation projects aimed at the incorporation and adoption of new information technologies; measurement and intelligent networks; [and] multipurpose LED lighting,” according to the company.

Here are the investment totals by subsidiary:

CENS: This subsidiary has already invested COP$481 billion (US$127 million) for efficiency and reliability projects over the past four years – an all-time record, according to EPM.

As a result, “the ‘SAIDI’ indicator (which measures duration of service failures) has decreased by 35% between 2016 and 2019, and the SAIFI indicator (which measures the frequency of failures) has decreased by 16%, [both] achieving better-than-national long-term targets,” according to EPM.

Besides extending power service into more rural areas and low-income neighborhoods, CENS now offers payment plans “tailored to the needs of users and their ability to pay, such as ‘Rechargeable Energy’ and ‘Pay to Your Needs,’” according to EPM.

ESSA: This subsidiary launched a COP$770 billion (US$204 million) investment plan in 2016 “in order to increase coverage and improve the quality of energy service for its customers and users in Santander,” according to EPM.

“These resources have been key to illuminating the lives of 23,424 rural families who did not have the energy service in their homes,” according to EPM.

“Thus, a coverage of the energy service in the rural area of 96.4% and a total urban-rural coverage of 98.85% were achieved, making Santander one of the departments in Colombia with the greatest coverage of electric-energy service and consequently greater opportunities for development and well-being.

“Through expansion and improvement projects of networks and electrical substations, it was possible to improve by 40% the time that customers go without energy service (SAIDI indicator) and to reduce by 30% the number of interruptions in the energy service of users (SAIFI indicator),” the company added.

EDEQ: Since 2010, EDEQ has invested approximately COP$100 billion (US$26.5 million) in the Quindío electricity system, boosting service quality. “The frequency indicator (SAIFI) has improved by 65%; while the availability indicator (SAIDI) imrpvoed by 20%,” according to EPM.

“For the next five years, EDEQ will invest more than COP$90 billion [US$24 million] in projects including the [power dispatch] control center, expansion and replacement of networks and substations, and management of energy losses, all to achieve greater efficiencies and better quality,” according to EPM.

CHEC: So far in 2020, power-supply interruption frequencies and durations have been reduced substantially, “which shows the results of investments aimed at improving the quality of the energy service,” according to EPM.

“Through electrification plans and the expansion of infrastructure, coverage of 99.91% was achieved in the departments of Caldas and Risaralda,” the company added.

“During 2018 and 2019, CHEC infrastructure planning studies were carried out for the municipalities of Dosquebradas and Dorada, as well as the study of the expansion of the Regional Transmission System. As a result, 25 projects are being formulated today, which would come into operation in the next six years.”

For 2020, CHEC plans to invest COP$45 billion (US$12 million) and then another COP$244 billion (US$65 million) in the 2021-2024 period, according to the company.

EPM: The principal subsidiary of Grupo EPM “has as its fundamental purpose the provision of electric power service with universal coverage and the best possible quality” in Medellin and throughout Antioquia. Following that promise, at the end of 2019 EPM’s service coverage in urban areas was 100% and in rural areas 97.26%.

EPM offers pioneering payment solutions including “Prepaid Energy,” “Housing Enablement” and the “Pay for Your Needs” program, “all of which make it possible to access service and stay permanently connected” even for relatively low-income households.

For the period 2020-2024, EPM’s total investments in Medellin and Antioquia will be approximately COP$1.7 trillion [US$450 million], featuring “expansion projects and replacement of electrical infrastructure that will make it possible to connect more customers and modernize the infrastructure; our ‘safety project’ that will guarantee the continuity of service under safe conditions for both workers and contractors and for the community; the ‘quality project’ that aims to improve the quality of electricity service in all territories (SAIDI-SAIFI indicators), and the change of public lighting to more-efficient LED technology,” according to the company.

EPM Social/Environmental Projects Director Ana Milena Joya Camacho revealed in a May 26 meeting with Antioquia departmental officials that 192 workers at the “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project have tested positive for Coronavirus.

Because of this outbreak – first detected among 13 workers on May 12 -- EPM not only has removed, isolated and ensured treatment of all those infected, but also is now testing 100% of all employees at the construction site, Joya said.

In addition, EPM is imposing even stricter biosafety protocols on all workers, beyond the protocols first adopted in March 2020, she said. What’s more, no outsiders will be allowed inside the project site unless cleared of Covid-19 symptoms and tested.

Following the initial outbreak in early May, EPM arranged with Universidad de Antioquia to test all workers. An initial test campaign covering 418 workers on May 16 confirmed seven more Covid-19 cases, according to EPM.

As a result, EPM reported that as of May 16, a total 10 of workers had shown mild symptoms.  “But in case their health requires it, the CCCI Consortium [the construction companies building Hidroituango] together with EPM and health authorities are prepared for their timely and safe posting to the hospital entity indicated by the EPS where the workers are affiliated,” according to the company.

“Through the agreement with the University of Antioquia, tests will continue to be carried out on all of the contractor’s workers to properly guide their efforts in mitigating the pandemic and protecting the health of their community, the families of the workers and the populations of the municipalities of the area of influence,” according to EPM.

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Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

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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