Transport official are
counting on basic rail crossing signals to reduce crashes.
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y
the railway traffic signals are going up
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The transport ministry finally is putting in signals at railway grade
crossings. The first two are in service, and transport officials are
warning motorists of steep fines for failing to obey the flashing
lights and bells.
Nearly nine years have passed since the valley train went back into
service carrying passengers. That was in October 2005. Since then, the
routes have been expanded. In 2009 the train to Heredia went into
All this time the grade crossings have been generally unprotected. A
few rusty crossing signs remain from the time in 1996 when passenger
service was terminated due to budget constrictions.
The crossing project has been in the works for some time, and was not
initiated because there were three train-vehicle accidents in the last
10 days. In fact, since the beginning of passenger service every
locomotive operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles has
had at least one crash. There have been deaths, including that of a
policeman and a woman pedestrian. The most recent death was that of a
pedestrian who died on the tracks north of Mall San Pedro where the
line crosses six lanes of the Circunvalación.
No one knows why the man did not hear or heed the train horn. That is
the same place a tractor trailer collided with a train early March 4.
Consorcio Titán-Semex, the firm that also does work on the
nation's traffic lights, is in charge of the railway signs. None is a
barrier that blocks
as a train approaches. They are the red and white crosses with flashing
lights and bells that usually are seen in rural areas in other
The first two signs have been installed at Plaza González
Víquez, adjacent to the offices of the Ministerio de Obras
Públicas y Transportes.
Signals are supposed to be installed in a total of 29 locations soon.
The job is directed by the ministry's Consejo de Seguridad Vial.
The locations for the signals are between Pavas and San Pedro and
between San Jose´and Heredia, spots where there have been
The investment is 485 million colons or about $879,000, said the
ministry. This expenditure is part of a larger plan to make the rail
crossings safer. The total price tag is 2.5 billion colons, about $4.5
The signals are supposed to activate when the train is 75 meters away,
some 246 feet.
Traffic officials are quick to reject blame for the nine years of
crashes and deaths. They blame the imprudence of motorists and
pedestrians. They also are quick to point out that ignoring a rail
signal can generate a 198,000-colons fine. That's about $357. Some
tickets already have been issued in the vicinity of the transport
Many of the accidents have been the result of motorists listening to
music with the windows rolled up or listening to portable devices. Cell
telephones also could have played a role in some crashes.
Vargas finally picked up to serve prison term
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Eliseo Vargas García was arrested by judicial agents from the
Sección de Capturas.
The former executive president of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro
Social faces four years in prison for a charge of embezzlement that was
detrimental to a public institution.
The 60-year-old Vargas was outside of a hotel a little before noon
Tuesday in La Sabana when agents made the arrest. He was immediately
transferred to the Segundo Circuito Judicial of San José where
he remained per orders from the criminal court judge. He was convicted
of putting an associate on the payroll knowing that the man
actually be working, just getting paid.
Vargas was a legislature with the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana from
2000 to 2004 under the tenures of two presidents from the same party,
Miguel Ángel Rodríguez and Abel Pacheco.
He also was involved in the so-called Fischel case that involved a
multi-million dollar loan from the government of Finland to purchase
medical equipment made there. Caja workers said the equipment was not
Vargas was not alone being arrested Tuesday. Agents from the Judicial
Investigating Organization also detained a 78-year-old man Tuesday who
has been sentenced to eight years for sexual abuse of a minor.