President Guillermo Lasso has committed $150 million to emergency road repairs roads and highways damaged by heavy rains. According to Transportation Minister Marcelo Cabrera, immediate response is required throughout the country following a series of intense rainstorms.
“The winter weather this year has been devastating, leaving some communities totally isolated and restricting travel between major cities,” Cabrera said. “We have construction crews at work at several critical sites and will send more in the coming hours.”
Among the major roadways suffering landslides and washouts are routes between Quito and the coast through Santo Domingo, the coastal Ruta del Spondylus and several sections of E35, the country’s major north-south highway. In the southern Sierra, motorists are required to take lengthy detours between Cuenca and Loja as well as between Cuenca and Guayaquil.
“We have not experienced this level of weather damage in recent memory and we are only half way through the season,” Cabrera said Thursday. In addition to landslides that destroyed sections of more than 20 roads, he said that failures of dams, drainage systems and retention ponds have blocked traffic in several areas. Highway E35 in Loja Province suffered structural damage from a drainage failure and will remain closed until the end of March.
The first priority for repairs, Cabrera said, are communities that have been isolated by road damage. La Maná, near Ibarra and Pucará, in Azuay Province, southwest of Cuenca, are two of the most affected towns. “Road failures that isolate communities not only affect general travel but the livelihoods of farmers and manufacturers who cannot get their goods to market,” he said.
In one case, the highway through the Cajas Mountains west of Cuenca, military and law enforcement personnel have been called in to allow repair work to proceed. Some resident of the town of Molleturo have attempted prevent repairs to protest construction plans and project delays. According to Cabrera, the project has encountered unforeseen engineering challenges but those have been resolved and work will proceed with police protection.
“We have listened to the concerns of the residents there but the highway is the major thoroughfare between the coast and Cuenca and we cannot let the selfish interests of a few people stop the work,” he said.