In the News from Panama

More Metro News: Tunnel Planned Under Canal

In a surprising new twist to the rollout of the Panama Metro, officials announced last week that the much-anticipated westward extension of the network will use a tunnel under the Panama Canal.

The original plan called for the new metro line to be included as part of a fourth bridge over the Canal, which is currently in development. But now Panama officials say the metro line will use a tunnel instead, which should help move the project forward, removing it from the complexities of the bridge project.

A tunnel has been under study for months, Metro general director Héctor Ortega told the Associated Press. This would be the first tunnel under the Canal.

This westerly Metro route will be a huge deal for Panama City and the rest of the country. Not only will it connect the capital to the fast-growing areas to the west, including Panama Pacifico, but it will also make the coastal communities more accessible to everyone in the city.

The fourth bridge will provide a huge relief to the auto traffic and the inclusion of the metro in the plans was seen as a large benefit to the region’s traffic network. A Chinese consortium is under contract to build the bridge with a metro line for $4 million. But there are a wide variety of complications to building the bridge, which will certainly take time to resolve.

Now the plan is to separate the metro line from the project, with a budget of $2.5 million, financed by the Japanese company supplying the train technology.. Public Works Minister Rafael Sabonge told the Associated Press the decision to separate the projects “was made primarily to avoid delays to the subway expansion, something that is eagerly awaited by residents west of Panama City.” There were also technical issues, “such as compatibility between the bridge and the metro, and possible harm to third parties,” the news service reports.

“It is a done deal that the projects are going to be separated,” Sabonge said.

Work on the third line of the metro could begin in the next few weeks if the proper approvals fall into place, officials say. Last week government officials announced that a contract was signed with HPH Joint Venture, a Korean consortium, to design, construct and finance the 25-kilometer extension of the region’s first and only metro.