Efraín Arias
Director General of SCT State Office Queretaro
View from the Top

Queretaro’s Growing Road Network

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 09:43

Q: What sparked Queretaro’s need for more road infrastructure development in the last few years?
A: Given the state of Queretaro’s fast-growing industries such as aerospace, manufacturing and industrial parks, transportation of goods is important. The capacity of our highways is reaching its limits and that is why we must coordinate with local and state authorities as to what projects should be developed. The only highway that existed 15 years ago was Highway 57, which interconnected Laredo to Piedras Negras. Later, the Palmillas-Apaseo El Grande macrobeltway was constructed to ease traffic on Highway 57. Vehicles headed to the Bajio region would use this macrobeltway to avoid crossing the city. Then the northeast and southwestern Queretaro beltways were created to also ease traffic. These three beltways are the result of the real estate and industrial evolution in the Bajio region. Queteraro sees constant interaction between the federal road network and the state network, and SCT works to follow the trends of how the industry and its needs are evolving in the state.
Q: What new needs has SCT Centro Queretaro identified to boost the competitiveness of its road network and industries?
A: Conservation and maintenance is also an important part of a road network. SCT Centro Queretaro’s role is to optimize resources and distribute them throughout the entire state. Highway 57, for instance, is the main artery that interconnects the state to the rest of the country, but it has reached its maximum capacity. This is one of the reasons why the capacity of the Paseo de la Republica section was expanded to its full capacity to 12 lanes and the Queretaro-Mexico section is being expanded to six lanes.
Although the macrobeltway has been in operation for only a year, it already has a traffic volume of 11,000 vehicles a day. This beltway should be expanded to 12 lanes but the ROW is complex and it is not possible. The northwest and southwest beltways could also be expanded to increase capacity. The State of Queretaro is also analyzing the development of another circuit toward the Queretaro International Airport.
Q: How are most road and highway projects funded in the State of Queretaro?
A: Most projects are funded through public financing from the Federal Expenditure Budget (PEF). SCT receives an annual budget that it then distributes among the states and to different projects. Nevertheless, the public budget varies greatly each year. Five years ago, we would construct MX$22 billion in federal roadways and in 2018 we were construction only MX$16 billion due to Congress’ policies. Throughout 2018, the State of Queretaro will use MX$1.07 billion to develop the new road network that includes presidential commitments such as Bernal-Higuerillas, Portezuelo-Palmillas and Paseo de la Republica.
When we do have highways that are profitable, the private sector is invited to participate. There are many projects in Mexico that are not necessarily profitable but they are socially important. The country always wants to make sure there is a balance. Each state proposes its projects and the Ministry of Finance approves the resources. In Queretaro we currently do not have PPAs, although our neighbor, San Luis Potosi, has the PPA for the maintenance and conservation of the Queretaro-San Luis Potosi section of Highway 57. The macrobeltway was also constructed under a PPA scheme.
Q: What is the main challenge SCT Centro Queretaro encounters when developing new or improving existing road infrastructure?
A: I believe the country is well-managed and that there are enough monetary resources. I believe that the country does have the financial capacity to construct; there are other factors that are causing projects to increase in costs and time. One of the main problems transport infrastructure projects face is right of way, especially when developing projects for the Mexican highway network. For instance, when a highway is modernized and expanded, the project may need to adjust its path. Years ago, the modifications were far more modest and roads were constructed with high slopes for a much faster and cheaper construction. Today, many communities are claiming the historical ROW from highways that already exist. ROW has the power to derail a project, especially since now many ejidos do not even have the proper documents to accredit the property.
An example in neighboring Guanajuato is the Toyota manufacturing plant. The company had problems with the ROW for the El Castillo elevated highway crossing. Companies must hire large teams of lawyers and technical experts to obtain the rights. There are communities that are noble and cooperate and then there are many that want to abuse the system. The government allows us to tender projects if a certain percentage of the ROW has been liberated but projects are forced to a halt when the remaining ROW cannot be obtained. The construction teams must have a great deal of conviction to overcome all of the obstacles that they will face to finish a project.
Environmental permits are also playing a crucial role in the development of highway projects. These permits include not only environmental impact studies but also the change of land use. To obtain a change of land use, SEMARNAT requires that the land purchase be accredited. There are also many laws that hinder progress. For example, to obtain an explosives permit to create a tunnel for a road, the process could take up to more than half a year as it goes through the various entities and levels of government.