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Bogotá seeks to upgrade road network
Development Business / July 16, 1997

By Larry Luxner

Bogotá's Public Works Authority (Secretaría de Obras Públicas, or SOP) says 71% of the Colombian capital's roads desperately needs repair. As such, the agency has opened a tender for an ambitious three-year, $111 million street rehabilitation program to affect 10 million square meters (or 26%) of Bogotá's streets and highways.

At the moment, SOP is responsible for 35% of the city's 10,730 kilometers of roads -- but that portion carries 80% of the crowded city's traffic. Responsibility for the remaining 65% of smaller roads is spread among several different localities. Maintenance for these is carried out by hundreds of small contractors who often lack expertise, according to the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, whose commercial section has copies of the preliminary bid document on file.

"Colombia is a country of varied climates and rough topography," says an embassy cable. "A multitude of problems beset its roadways: damage from landslides and floods, design deficiencies, expanded traffic loads, low-quality construction materials, irregular maintenance with unsuitable equipment and difficult geologic conditions."

The traffic situation in metropolitan Bogotá -- population 6.5 million -- certainly isn't getting any better. Colombia has roughly 1.6 million vehicles (including 110,000 new vehicles sold during 1996). Of the total, 530,000 vehicles circulate in Bogotá, of which 60% are automobiles, 30% buses and 10% trucks.

Rehabilitation of many of these deteriorated roads may not be possible, since they're carrying much more traffic than they were ever designed for. Nevertheless, 30% of the work foreseen in the tender, which opened Mar. 6 and will close May 6, consists of road rebuilding; the rest is filling potholes, sealing surfaces and other miscellaneous jobs.

"The proposal recognizes the need to obtain private-sector experience and capabili-ties to improve the quality and lifespan of the roads," the cable continues. "It comes in response to the deteriorated state of the city's road network and the need to make large investments over a short period of time, so as to achieve rapid traffic improvement. The project's goal is to take the public works authority out of the construction business; private contractors would handle construction and maintenance and the SOP would be responsible for the administration of the bids or contracts."

The Bogotá mayor's office has full funding for this tender. In addition, the World Bank and the Urban Development Institute (Instituto de Desarrollo Urbano) have already set aside $300 million in 1997 to rehabilitate and repair streets, intersections and traffic corridors; a similar sum is projected for 1998. The World Bank has provided $40 million for six roads totalling 417 kilometers.

Firms interested in bidding must have completed $100 million in works of construction, rehabilitation, maintenance or paving of roads or airport runways during the last five years (either alone or as part of a consortium). Also, during 24 consecutive months of the past five years, the bidder should have completed rehabilitation or maintenance work on urban roads under a minimum contract of $20 million. Experience in traffic management is of utmost importance.

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