Maya Train construction causes partial closure of the Merida-Cancun highway

They indicated that the execution of the work was never consulted or discussed with the affected communities. Photo: (Sipse)
For tens of kilometers, vehicles must travel tightly on the southern body of the highway

There is an issue in the economic and mobility infrastructure in our Yucatan Peninsula, one that incredibly has gone unnoticed in public debate: the severe partial and apparently, long-term closure of the Mérida-Cancun highway. 

Yes, the construction of the Mayan Train is being carried out not on one side of the highway, not between the lanes, but right on top of the North body of the highway, so the two lanes that allow traffic from Cancun to Mérida are not working. 

The highway between these two cities is no longer such. For tens of kilometers the vehicles, many of them heavy trucks carrying fuel must travel tightly in the South body of the highway, that is, all the traffic in both directions in two lanes only. 

Between lanes, improvised, divided by plastic barriers secured with ropes, and sacks of sand so that the wind and the vibration of the vehicles do not dislodge them or make them fall, a fuel tanker and a bus full of passengers going in the opposite direction brushed each other as only a few inches apart. 

This is not a temporary or small inconvenience, we are facing major construction works that will last perhaps years. Yucatán and Quintana Roo have lost their integral four-lane highway link. This issue was never widely discussed by the companies involved in the project. 

The construction of the Mayan Train already severely disables the road connection between the tourist mecca of the Riviera Maya and the productive hopes of colonial Mérida, historic Campeche, magical Izamal, and partially Valladolid. Even getting to Chichén Itzá – the jewel of the crown- is more complicated now as the archaeological site must be entered at a maximum speed is 40 km/hour. 

When was the peninsular society consulted on the subject? Has anyone ever evaluated the economic impacts of converting an essential highway into a partially stripped highway? Have compensation issues already been discussed? And most important of all, aren’t you thinking of reducing toll fees?

The completion of the Maya Train Project will take years, and when the train is finished it is possible that there is still time (time and billions of pesos) to rebuild and replace the lanes of the highway. In other words, the road may be in that scenario of detours, tight lanes, and other orange obstacles beyond 2024. Is that possible and acceptable? Are the authorities clear about the social effect of this constructive decision?

Explanations, dates, and commitments are urgently needed to restore this vital artery for the economy, tourism, and internal mobility in the peninsula. 

Traveling from Mérida to Valladolid and Cancun (or vice versa) is suddenly a crossroads of cars that rub against each other, tires that have to roll on the shoulder so that the lanes are wide and, if you travel at night, we have hundreds of drivers moving in groups of vehicles at low speed. 

The most obvious thing to question is whether the toll on the highway should remain the same. Why is a fee charged for a service that is no longer provided? When will the fee be reduced in direct proportion to the service that is actually being provided? We insist, it is not a pavement repair, nor a weeks maintenance, it is a change that will probably be there for years. It is urgent to compensate the public, the users of the local economies, for the way this upsets everything. Perhaps consideration should be given to providing free services to internal and domestic users in interconnected populations. 

The Mayan Train begins to be drawn on the horizon, but without a locomotive arriving yet, it seems that the Mérida-Cancun highway has already been taken by the train. It is urgent to debate this issue, to propose solutions. At such a critical time to reactivate the economy, the toll road seems more like an extreme sport adventure for tourism and an obstacle for the local and regional economy. It is time to talk about the Mayab road.