The president of Mexico and his legion of security personnel descended on this region Monday for the official inauguration of the Macrolibramiento, Guadalajara’s outer city ring road.
The four-lane toll road cuts a 111-kilometer arc around the southern perimeter of Guadalajara and was opened to traffic mid-November.
This week’s official unveiling provided an opportunity for President Enrique Peña Nieto to heap eulogies on Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval, a co-religionist of his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He praised the governor’s “leadership” that “has been missing for decades” in the state, and alluded to the “progress made” that is helping “transform every one of the families that live in this great state.”
Despite rumblings of discontent among some users of the Macrolibramiento since it opened to traffic, Peña Nieto was unrestrained in his praise for the 8.5-billion-peso public work.
“Imagine the amount gasoline that [the road] will save and all the greenhouse gases that will not be emitted,” he enthused.
A major aim of the Macrolibramiento is to move traffic that is “passing through Guadalajara” off the city’s congested periferico (beltway) and thus reduce contaminants in an urban area blighted by air pollution.
Mexico’s Communications and Transportation Ministry calculates optimistically that around half of the 15,000 trailers that currently circulate each day in Guadalajara will use the new road.
The president also highlighted the “environmental sustainability” of a highway that borders the Primavera Forest, often referred to as “Guadalajara’s lung.” The Macrolibramiento has 94 wildlife crossings connecting the Sierra de Ahuisculco with the Primavera. Around 250,000 new trees have also been planted in areas adjacent to the highway, according to the state government.
The celebratory mood of the official opening was soon tempered by a series of negative comments from the vice president of the Confederación Nacional de Transportistas Mexicanos (National Transportation Confederation), Manuel Sánchez Benavides, who called the Macrolibramiento expensive, insecure and without services.
He described the cost of 470 pesos for commercial vehicles to use the entirety of the highway as excessive – especially in the light of the rising cost of gasoline. Private vehicles are charged 203 pesos at three toll booths along the road, which intersects the Tepic, Colima and Mexico City highways.
In less than two months since its opening, the Macrolibramiento has been plagued by security woes, Sánchez Benavides charged. At least 17 assaults on trailers, most in the section between the Colima and Mexico City autopistas, have been reported since last November, he said.
Among other deficiencies is the absence of services, such as fuel, eating and parking options, Sánchez Benavides complained.