The controversy behind the Chile-Argentina tunnel

Spanish construction consortium Sacyr has the leading offer to take on the project despite their questionable record.

Sacyr Vallehermoso, a Madrid based Spanish construction firm, has expressed interest to lead the construction of the Agua Negra tunnel, a project that aims to build a highway that crosses over the Chile-Argentina border, connecting the San Juan province in Argentina to Coquimbo in Chile.

The project’s high profile comes from its ambitiousness. The tunnel in question is planned to go for nearly 8.6 miles and will be built in complicated conditions under the Andean mountains.

It comes as part of a Mercosur integration process, and will be part of the highway that traverses the continent, from Coquimbo in Chile to Porto Alegre in Brazil.

The entire construction is expected to cost $800 million dollars, and will be financed in its entirety by the Interamerican Development Bank, which will assign up to $1500 million in loans to both countries to cover all costs during the expected 8 year duration.

The controversy surrounding the issue comes from Sacyr’s reputation. The company has undoubtedly led, and successfully completed several high profile projects. However, on some others it has faltered.

Among its successes we can count the Talavera de la Reina ring road and the Las Pedrizas motorway in Spain, as well as several desalination plants across the Middle East and North Africa.

Nonetheless, in what is perhaps the greatest project they have undertaken, the expansion of the Panama Canal, their performance has been questionable at best. Exceeding their first deadline by more than two years, and their initial budget by $1.6 billion has only been the beginning of their troubles, as several legal disputes with the Panamanian government are still underway.

Sacyr also assumed the construction of the Costanera Norte, a highway that traverses the city of Santiago, in Chile, from its westernmost point towards the east. Sacyr is being held responsible for the overflow of the Mapocho river last Sunday, which left 4000 people affected.

LatinAmerican Post |

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