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$11.9M repair of bridge on busy Baldorioty de Castro Highway begins

The Puerto Rico Highways & Transportation Authority advised drivers to check for traffic updates on applications including Waze.

More than two years after it was announced, repair works on the bridge connecting the Baldorioty de Castro Highway (PR-26) with Los Ángeles Avenue in Carolina, Puerto Rico, started this week, with a completion date set for the first quarter of 2026, Puerto Rico Highways & Transportation Authority (ACT, in Spanish) officials confirmed.

The project will be split into six phases and entail an investment of about $11.9 million. It will likely cause traffic disruptions on the busy highway that runs parallel to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

The first step is to construct a detour from PR-26 from kilometer (km) 9.4 to km 8.9, in front of the airport from Carolina to San Juan. That should be completed by July 19, the agency stated.

The reconstruction of the busy bridge was first announced in January 2022, when the ACT, with the support of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), explained that the four-lane bridge requires the replacement of its slabs. It spans 243.1 meters in length and 14.2 meters in width and was built in 1996.

During an inspection in March 2011, the agency found several structural problems, including displacement and undercutting. The project schedule was affected due to damage from Hurricane María, which required a revision of plans and design studies.

The qualifying condition of the bridge deck was declared as “3,” or serious condition, in the bridge inspection report based on a scale of nine to zero, established by National Bridge Inspection Standards, which are followed by all states.

All the bridge slabs will be replaced on the ramps to and from Los Ángeles Avenue, and other work including geometric improvements, followed by pavement rehabilitation, and marking and improvements to the existing traffic light, are also included in the plan.

Lastly, the area signage will be replaced, some of which has been damaged or missing since Hurricane María in 2017. Additionally, a traffic management plan will be implemented during the construction phases, the ACT explained in its presentation in 2022.

During the second phase of the project, traffic will be diverted from Carolina to San Juan using a marginal road parallel to the airport once part of the bridge is closed. During the third phase, a detour will be put in place on PR-26 from San Juan to Carolina, the ACT stated.

A ramp will open under the bridge during a fourth phase when the bridge will be completely shut down, along with the access ramps from San Juan to Los Ángeles Avenue and from Los Ángeles Avenue to Carolina. That closure is expected to cause significant vehicular flow changes for residents of the area, including the extensive Los Ángeles urbanization and Laguna Gardens, which includes a cluster of residential high-rises and walk-up complexes.

The area is also home to several car rental operations that may be affected by the temporary changes.

Two years of permitting and bids
Since unveiling the project, local and federal agencies have been completing the permitting process, which included the go-ahead from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the State Historic Preservation Offices, the Puerto Rico Permits Management Office, the Puerto Rico Aqueducts & Sewer Authority, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the Municipality of Carolina.

The design phase of the project was also completed, and Constructora Santiago II Corp. was chosen for the development.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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