UNASUR member countries work steadily for the integration of the region in the field of infrastructure. Within the framework of the annual meeting of authorities and technical staff from the sector ministerial councils of UNASUR, the participants discussed on the advancement of priority projects and updated COSIPLAN’s project portfolio, with a view to materializing the relevant works.
Infrastructure projects for integration keep on moving within the region, within the schedule established during the 30th Meeting of IIRSA Technical Forum, and as a proof at all levels of the firm commitment of the countries to shared, coordinated and integrated development of South America.
This year, the work is focused on the five-year review of the Agenda of Priority Projects for Integration (API). The API is a set of 103 projects defined by the South American countries in 2011, grouped under 31 connectivity knots (called structured projects) considered as priorities for the integration of the region. These knots may be specific works, as in the case of the development of key border crossings for smooth flow between the countries; railway sections required within an existing network; and wide bi-oceanic corridors involving several countries. These projects were selected from COSIPLAN’s portfolio, a set of projects encompassing the most important works for the countries as per the integration objective.
The Pro Tempore Presidency of COSIPLAN, held by Argentina, together with the Technical Coordination Committee, proposed to reorganize the projects within the API at the special meeting for the review of API, held on April 19, in Buenos Aires. The countries agreed to build upon this new structure that proposes the constitution of the following two groups of projects within the Agenda:
- A first group made up by projects developed under a conclusion commitment for 2022; this group is called API 2022.
- The second group includes projects with conclusion date for 2027, and is called API 2027.
Any structured projects that does not fit in any of the two groups will no longer be considered as priority, and may be re-assessed during the 2022 API review.
After the countries laid the foundations for the review of API, in April this year, they held several videoconferences per Integration and Development Area. The first one was on May 16, and the last one, on June 29. The areas covered by these meetings were the Central Inter-oceanic area; Peru-Brazil-Bolivia area; the MERCOSUR-Chile area; the Paraguay-Parana waterway; the Capricorn; and the South Areas. The meetings on the Amazonia, the Andes; and the Guayana Shield areas are still pending.
As a testimony of the commitment of the countries to this working agenda, and in order to contribute with the technical deepening of the debates, we hereby present a description of two API projects reviewed within the framework of the mentioned activities.
The Bi-Oceanic Central Railway Corridor (CBFC, in Spanish) is a railway project presented as a priority by Bolivia, which aims at connecting the Port of Santos in Brazil, on the Atlantic Ocean, and the Port of Ilo in Peru, on the Pacific Ocean. This connectivity knot stands out as the most advantageous alternative for mobilization of bulk and heavy Bolivian mineral, agriculture and forestry raw material towards international markets.
The Program for Pre-Investment on Strategic Projects carried out by the Bolivian Deputy-Ministry of Transportation, and financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), developed studies that allowed to determine the feasibility of this interconnection, including an analysis on the possibility to implement the corridor for the mobilization of passengers through the Bolivian territory.
Currently, the Bolivian Railway system is made up by the Andean and the Eastern Networks, which were not connected each other. Both structures implement metric gauge and connect to Brazil and Argentina, on the East, and to Peru, Chile, and Argentina, on the West.
During the review of the projects within the Central Inter-Oceanic area, the delegation of Bolivia presented the progress achieved by the multinational dialogue on this integration project. Four working tables were installed (financial framework, regulation framework, technical specifications, and strategy), with the participation of representatives from Brazil, Peru, and Paraguay, and upon the commitment of the countries to continue working on the defined actions.
The investment required in Bolivia to connect the two networks and to operate the corridor within the country was estimated at USD 7,000 million, including the infrastructure and rolling stock. Bolivia informed that it is working on the construction of the Montero-Bulo Bulo section, with approximately 150 km, which is part of the central section. The country expects to advance a second stage of the project with the section connecting Bulo Bulo and Villa Tunari, currently under assessment for a pre-investment allocation. The ongoing actions include the sections scheduled for the connection of Villa Tunari and Oruro city. This project stage include a definition of the pre-investment costs and the identification of the financing sources required to advance the works. Finally, Bolivia explained that the Government of Paraguay has expressed its interest in connecting with the corridor, possibly from Robore, up to the Port of Carmelo Peralta; in this regard, the relevant studies are being carried out.
The delegation of Brazil confirmed its interest in the mentioned corridor, while underlining the need to promote railway connection between Port of Suarez (Bolivia) and Corumba (Brazil). As per infrastructure, in order to complete this connectivity between both countries, it is necessary to build a small section between the two rail networks that are currently operating near the border. In addition, Brazil stressed the importance of advancing within the legal and operational frameworks of the corridor, considering that the Brazilian railway network that reaches the end section has been already awarded. In this regard, in order to achieve effective integration, the country is considering the implementation of the so-called operation contracts, subscribed with the private sector. Additionally, it is required that both governments agree on the facilitation of cargo traffic in the border, as the first step towards the definition of the rest of the subjects necessary for comprehensive integration of railway services. Finally, Brazil informed that its government intends to develop a logistic platform in Campo Grande, while introducing the possibility, in the medium term, to transport gas from Bolivia to Brazil.
The delegation of Peru commented that they developing a study that will define at the technical level the best option to connect the railway corridor with the Pacific Ocean, through the territory of Peru. The three routings assessed are the following: i) from Hito IV to the Port of Ilo; ii) from Desaguadero to the Port of Ilo; and iii) from Desaguadero to the Port of Matarani. The conclusion of the study is expected for July this year.
The “Cristo Redentor” Border Crossing System is located in the Andes mountain range, and it connects the Valparaiso region, in Chile, and the Mendoza Province, in Argentina. This project has been given high priority as it is the main bilateral road connection between Argentina and Chile, and one of the main border crossings in South America. This point allows for intense trade exchange between MERCOSUR countries and Chile, and through the latter towards overseas markets on the Pacific Ocean, through the Ports of Valparaíso, San Antonio, and Quinteros.
The optimization of this system is based on a Binational Study financed through a Technical Cooperation with the IDB. Such study allowed for assessment of the existing alternatives both for the infrastructure and the operation of the system, and for the definition of solutions for the implementation of a better system of border control, through the development plan structured by stages.
This API structured project is composed by 5 initiatives from COSIPLAN’s portfolio, aimed at optimizing this complex system. The delegations of Argentina and Chile stressed the priority assigned by both countries to continuous improvement of this connection.
As per other specific projects, the meeting presented the progress achieved regarding the refurbishment of the Cristo Redentor and the Caracoles Tunnels. The delegation of Argentina informed on several ongoing studies under this project, developed with non-reimbursable funds from the IDB. These works are aimed at transforming connectivity into an integrated system of tunnels, following the international design standards, and with a special focus on traffic capacity and security. The reconditioning of the Caracoles Tunnel includes the transformation of the former rail connection into an additional roadway, with a bigger gauge and a connection to the Cristo Redentor Tunnel through a ventilation galleries for evacuation in case of emergency. These are subsequent works, thus, they will be included into a same contract. Additionally, the delegation informed on the beginning, in July, of the construction of the Palmira Relief Route for National Route 7, in Mendoza, designed to facilitate access from that route to the border crossing, in order to release vehicle traffic within the city. The mentioned works will be financed by the IBD, as well.
The Uspallata Single Cargo Control Point, in Argentina is at the pre-execution stage, with a total amount of USD 90 million. The objectives of this project include reducing average control times, as well as traffic and empty-truck dispatch times; improving the quality of services provided to carriers; enhancing predictability in logistic planning; and increasing competitiveness of exports by reducing general transportation costs. The Comprehensive Control Area will include representation of the Federal Administration of Public Income (AFIP, by its acronym in Spanish); traffic-circle access; and the works linked to the Uspallata Management Station (EGUS, by its acronym in Spanish), the Heavy Traffic Management Station (EGTP, by its acronym in Spanish); and the Management Station (EGCM, by its acronym in Spanish).
Los Horcones Passenger Control Point, in Argentina, is a project at the pre-execution stage, with an estimate allocation of USD 80 million. The objective of the initiative is reducing average times through control adjustment and infrastructure choices, thanks to the capacity of the facility to meet the demand flows without long lines and delays. The planned works include consolidation and optimization of the operation area for private cars; creation of a new space for collective transportation units; construction of a new building for staff accommodation (150 pax.); construction of a new building to install a cafeteria; construction of rest and leisure areas for officers from both countries; and construction of a new building to serve as a passenger resting area.
The new Libertadores Border Complex in Chile is at the execution stage, with an investment of approximately USD 88 million, provided through the awarding modality. The contract is at the final engineering phase, and the commissioning is expected to be launched in August 2019.
This complex will be located 300 meters north-west the current facilities. The project includes the following facilities, among others, spread over 28,000 square meters; control and inspection areas for vehicles, an accommodation building for officers, a new police (Carabineros) station, and a commercial area. Additionally, the project foresees the construction of access roads, an exit to Route 60-CH, internal traffic routes, and parking lots.
The Binational Control System for the Management of “El Cristo Redentor” Border Crossing, financed through a non-reimbursable Technical Cooperation of the IDB, is currently at the definition stage, and may be implemented for the entire integration corridor. At the same time, the delegations informed on actions for refurbishment of infrastructure and staff awareness on the coordination of the computer systems linked to the project portfolios of Migrations, SENASA, and Customs services.
Details on the updating of COSIPLAN’s portfolio and API
The review and updating meeting is an annual activity carried out by the South American countries since 2009. It allows for determination of the investment priorities within COSIPLAN’s portfolio according to the priorities of the governments respect to the integration works with their neighbors. All the specific information exchanged during these meetings with respect to API projects and COSIPLAN’s portfolio is available on the reports of the videoconferences held per Integration and Development area, which are published on the event calendar of COSIPLAN’s website.
The meetings are attended by technical teams from the governmental areas involved in the different stages of project development, which contribute with valuable and detailed information on the relevant works. The work is coordinated by INTAL, as the holder of the Secretariat of the Technical Coordination Committee, with the support of the General Secretariat of UNASUR.
The work carried out at the meetings includes exchange of technical information by the attending officers regarding the status of the projects. In the case of the executing projects, the officers provide details on the physical progress of the works, the compliance of the established schedules, and any delay. In the case of the projects at the early stages of development, the officers inform on the status of the studies carried out, as well as on the required investment aimed at project implementation.
For updating conclusion, and in order to launch the preparation of the relevant annual reports on COSIPLAN’s portfolio and the API, the designated officers must complete all the information within the Information System on COSIPLAN’s projects. This technological tool facilitates the provision of reliable information on the regional integration initiative to the public. The tool contains technical datasheets, progress level, and financing status for all the 600 infrastructure projects defined by the South American countries as priorities for enhanced connection and integration.