LA PAZ – South Korea’s Hyundai-Byucksan consortium on Tuesday started construction of a bridge 1,440 meters (9/10 of a mile) long in eastern Bolivia, a span that will be the country’s longest and will require an investment of $49.9 million, some of which will come from a loan from Seoul.
Work began with a ceremony in the Santa Cruz region attended by Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who is acting as interim president while Evo Morales is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
Also attending the event were officials from the South Korean Embassy, the construction consortium, the firm that will supervise the project and the state-run Bolivian Highway Administration (ABC).
The Banegas bridge, part of the country’s basic highway infrastructure, will cross the Grande River and link the town of Okinawa, located 109 kilometers (67 miles) from the city of Santa Cruz, with the town of Los Troncos, in the same region, the ABC announced in a communique.
The structure will also facilitate heavy cargo traffic between the town of San Matias, which borders on Brazil, and Trinidad, the capital of Bolivia’s northeastern Amazon region of Beni.
The project, which is designed as a “turnkey” operation, includes delivery of the final design study and the construction of the bridge within 35 months under the supervision of the Dohwa Engineering Co. Ltd., which is also South Korean.
Garcia Linera said that of the $49.9 million to be invested in the project, 17 percent (about $8.5 million) has been contributed by the government of Santa Cruz.
He added that the rest will come from a loan to Bolivia by the state-run South Korean Eximbank.
Currently, both vehicles and persons cross the Grande River in barges operated by local residents, who will receive a state indemnity to enable them to shift to other income-producing endeavors, the ABC said.
According to ABC president Antonio Mullisaca, when the project is finished, calculations are that about 4,000 vehicles will cross it each day.