BM / Bolivia: Transportation Cost to Fall More Than 50 Percent in Northern Amazonian Highway

The World Bank Board of Directors approved today a US$109.5 million credit for Bolivia, provided by the International Development Association (IDA), to achieve substantial improvements on the San Buenaventura-Ixiamas road and the Rurrenabaque Airport, both located in the northern Amazon region.

The road is frequently damaged by abundant rains that fall almost six months out of the year (November to April), causing swollen rivers, detachment of platforms, damaged bridges, and plenty of mud. Thanks to the planned investment from this assistance, however, travel time is expected to significantly reduce throughout the year, allowing an increase in average speed from 20 to 50 miles per hour for light cars and pickup trucks and 10 to 35 mph for heavy trucks. At the same time, it is expected that the cost of transportation along the road will drop by almost two-thirds for lighter vehicles and by half for heavy trucks.

Improvements will cover a total of 113.6 kilometers, including asphalt concrete paving, rehabilitation of drains and other protective structures and the construction of 21 bridges. The total cost of road work will be US$118.2 million, US$103.5 million from the World Bank and US$14.7 million from the Bolivian Government, with the government agency Bolivian Highway Administration (ABC) as executor.

In order to optimize road conditions for this important transport corridor, which links three cities (La Paz, Trinidad and Cobija) and other medium-sized towns (Rurrenabaque, Reyes, Santa Rosa, Yata, Puerto Cabins and Riberalta) will include the implementation of checkpoints to control illegal logging and to weigh vehicles in order to avoid damage to the road.

"This credit, which represents the largest World Bank investment in Bolivia in recent years, will promote sustainable and comprehensive development throughout the region," says Laura Frigenti, Director of Operations and Strategy for Latin America at the World Bank.

The loan will also include resources for the Rurrenabaque Airport Improving Program to assist a facility that serves a town of some 18,400 people. The airport has limited infrastructure and lacks basic equipment and safety protection, resulting in constant flight cancellations mostly due to bad weather. With the planned investments, the expectation is that as much as 90 percent of scheduled flights will be on-time.
 
The project includes construction of a new taxiway, apron, control tower, operations building, rescue and fire fighting buildings, an access road, and a passenger terminal, as well as the acquisition and installation of aviation control, rescue and firefighting equipment. The total cost of airport improvements will be US$6 million, without a counterpart contribution, and will be implemented by the Administration of Airports and Auxiliary Services of Air Navigation (AASANA).

The project will also include US$5million for institutional strengthening of ABC and AASANA, adding a total of US$19.7 million from the Bolivian government.

Both transport initiatives will have a major impact on the local economy, facilitating the production of sugar, cacao, and agro-forestry products, as well as benefiting tourism. Rurrenabaque is an important tourist destination in Bolivia (31,000 incoming air passengers and more than 20,000 tourists come through the jungle and the pampas annually). The San Buenaventura-Ixiamas road borders the Madidi National Park, one of the most important natural reserves in the world, with a high eco-tourism potential.

The "National Roads and Airport Infrastructure Project" will be financed with a US$109.5 million credit that has a 20-year maturity period, including a 10-year grace period.