Market Update: Bolivia

From the May 2017 issue.

Funded by the World Bank, infrastructure development in Bolivia is at a historic high. The result could not only benefit the commercial road transport industry, but also reduce poverty.

The World Bank’s National Roads and Airport Infrastructure Project, carried out in conjunction with the local government, is expected to have a game-changing impact on traffic flows by freeing up select arterial roads connecting capital cities and key freight hubs. As such, it is already catching on with other major investors in the region, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and slowly starting to make headlines across the globe.

One major road selected for the program is the San Buenaventura-Ixiamas National Road, which links the three capital cities of La Paz, Trinidad and Cobija with medium-sized towns like Rurrenabaque, Reyes, Santa Rosa, Yata, Puerto Cabins and Riberalta. It is frequently damaged during the rainy season, which can last from September all the way through to May and cause a whole range of practical and logistical issues – from swollen rivers and detached platforms though to damaged bridges and an over-abundance of greasy mud. With the help of the World Bank, some 114km of the road will now get a new concrete paving and a more efficient draining system, as well as 21 new bridges.

To control illegal logging and to weigh vehicles in order to avoid damage to the new surface, the Government is also planning to install regular truck checkpoints along the way.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around US$120 million (€113 million), with the lion share of US$103.5 million (€97.8 million) covered by the World Bank. Once the roadworks are finished, travel times are expected to be significantly reduced for both passenger and commercial traffic, mainly due to a planned increase in average speed from 20 to 50km/h for light cars and pickup trucks, and 10 to 35 km/h for heavy trucks. As a result, the cost of transportation along the road will see a drop by almost two-thirds for lighter vehicles and by half for heavy trucks, according to the World Bank. Local transport businesses are expected to benefit directly.

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