The ever-increasing number of inhabitants residing in some of Mexico’s major metropolises has stretched the country’s infrastructural capacity to breaking point, and asked that the relevant parties take the reigns in restoring a measure of stability to the country’s roads. Enter the Siervo de la Nación highway project, which, on completion, will stand as one of the most important connections between the boundaries of Mexico City and the State of Mexico.
By linking three of the region’s main thoroughfares, the Naucalpan to Ecatepec highway, the Circuito Exterior Mexiquense and the México to Tepexpan highway, the 14.5km high-speed route will allow traffic to flow more freely in and out of the country’s most congested areas.
One of the most important benefits of the Siervo de la Nación highway is the reduced environmental spill over, gained by way of reduced CO2 emissions
A nightmare commute
The infrastructural deficiencies at large in and around the area in question mean that it can take up to 50 minutes for commuters to drive little over 25km from Las Americas mall in the heart of Ecatepec to Mexico City. The heavily populated areas, coupled with insufficient roadways have served only to exasperate congestion and prolong commuting. The objective of the project, therefore, is to better connect Ecatepec with Mexico City by building a new and expanded highway and thus save up to 75 percent of the time spent travelling prior to construction.
This project was granted by the Government of the State of Mexico through a public tender process in which bidders could submit a proposal for areas including landscape design, concept design, construction procedure, traffic manage logistics, construction programmes, monetary compensations to the government, tariff structure for the users, toll system project, investment amounts, experience and concession terms. In addition, the bidders were extended the opportunity to propose better project designs in order to make the plan more efficient, not just operationally, but also economically speaking.
After the proposals were collated and considered by the government, the project was awarded to a consortium of companies lead by Mota-Engil México, the concession contract for the project development. The offer also includes a landscape integration of bridges and viaducts in the region; green areas and new recreation grounds; trash removal from the Gran Canal surroundings; high-level lamp posts along the 14.5km entirety; and teleprocessing infrastructure development for the project.
The successful proposal makes specific reference to a road divided into two sections, one of 10km that runs alongside the Gran Canal, and a second 4km section on top of an existing railway. As part of the project, the contracted design is a 2×0 reversible lane infrastructure, open to the traffic from 6am to 11pm and different in some respects from the norm on similar developments.
The consortium submitted the design with a view to achieving two primary objectives. The group’s first is to ensure the highway operation is made far more efficient, in particular in the morning, where people commute from Ecatepec to Mexico, and in the late afternoon and night, when they commute back home from Mexico City to Ecatepec. Secondly, the group aims to ensure a far healthier financial structure by not building unnecessary infrastructure in the initial few years of operation. Nevertheless, as traffic demand closes in on 40,000 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT), the consortium will then look to build a second road section, eventually turning the highway into a 2×2 road.
Keeping a watchful eye
From the project’s first stage and onwards, the highway will work as an electronic free flow toll collection road. And in order for the group to manage the operation effectively, CCTV will be implemented, allowing the managers to observe real time incidents that might prevent the operation from running smoothly.
However, one of the most important benefits of the Siervo de la Nación highway is the reduced environmental spill over, gained by way of reduced CO2 emissions. However, when it comes to analysing the traffic situation before and after the project, there are factors aside from the environmental benefits to first take into account when considering its importance in paving the way for future infrastructure projects. In terms of traffic improvements, Siervo de la Nación aims to improve quality of life for the surrounding population by way of reduced congestion, commuting time and pollution, in addition to a range of alternative improvements.
By improving upon the road’s condition as well as expanding on the number of lanes, the project promises to reduce the time spent by commuters travelling to and from work, and more crucially, set a precedent for similarly minded and much-needed infrastructure projects in Mexico. The benefits of the Siervo de la Nación highway project may also be calculated by way of a number of alternatives. For instance, the reduction in commuting time plays a role, and, according to research by Cal y Mayor y Asociados consultants, using information obtained from the Mexican Institute of Transport, commuters look set to save a considerable sum of money once the project is completed. Researchers found that, when compared to the scenario prior to the project’s completion, overall travel cost savings equate to approximately $63.8m on an annual basis (see Fig. 1).
What’s more, the core concession business is to build, operate, preserve and maintain the road Siervo de la Nación in accordance with a contract scheduled to run for a 27-year period. The financial structure is under process, depending on negotiations with several banking institutions. The difficulties contained in the project however, are far from excluded to finances, and extend also to a number of logistical issues.
For example, in accordance with the concession contract, it is the co-responsibility of both the government and the concessionaire to take back the right of way in case of any incident relating to the project. In the event of this happening, all the proper actions to take this back would be achieved by the concessionaire or any other company hired by them.
Once construction on the project is complete, the operational stage will commence, which highlights the issues before the project is considered anything close to a success. If at any point during this stage the peak hour traffic reaches a road service level of C, according to the applicable law of the Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes, and if this demand is sustained for the remainder of the concession period, the concessionaire will issue a request to the Sistema de Autopistas, Aeropuertos, Servicios Conexos y Auxiliares for an extension of the road.
The degree of the extension may be either partial or total, depending on the operational needs and the service level specified by the regulatory authority. This extension trigger is deemed necessary once the traffic flaw reaches a sustainable daily demand of 30,000 vehicles, and, according to the tender proposal, this stage could take place in 2017.
With the construction phase forecast to last approximately two years, investment will be distributed as and when it’s needed from the end of 2014 onwards. Assuming the project proceeds as planned, the roads in the Mexico City Metropolitan area will be better suited to facilitate ever-increasing waves of traffic while also improving upon the standard of living for those in the region.