Bolivian roads

Heading to Tupiza, Bolivia

Bolivia, poorest country in South America, must face up to many challenges. Road network has become a priority to enable a national development.

National roads of Bolivia (in spanish Rutas Nacionales de Bolivia) belong to the State forming the basic road assets (in spanish Red Vial Fundamental).

In november 2010, there were 47 185 miles (75 938 km) of roads of which :

  • Paved : 6 239 miles (10 041 km)
  • Highway : 19 miles (30 km)
  • Smaller than highway : 67 miles (108 km)
  • Gravel : 17 354 miles (27 928 km)
  • Track : 23 592 miles (37 969 km)

Almost 90% of bolivian roads arenot paved. The only highway goes from El Alto to La Paz to form the largest urban area of Bolivia.

Seeing the lack of road facilities, bolivian government has established a national plan to develop its network .

Road construction projects will have for main purposes to open up the most isolated areas of Bolivia in order to give to local population better access to Employement, Education and Health.

The road network will include regions with strong production potentialities in the national economy. Their skills and resources will be used for the national market and bring a better international competitivity to the country.

It will make easier exchanges between provinces and will conribute to create a national market. In the end, It will promote Foreign Exchange market with a better freight traffic and people flow especially with dividing border countries.

CAF (Corporacion Andina de Fomento), development bank including 18 countries of latin America, Carribean islands and Europe, established in 2010 a statement of the existing and becoming road assets of Bolivia (map below).

Road assets and project

Road assets and projects, Bolivia (map by CAF)

We can see in black the existing paved road and in red the paved road projects. We can realize how big is the work remaining.

In march 2012, CAF announced the paved road financing (169 km, 105 miles) between Cotagaita-Tupiza-Villazon. This section is essential to open up bolivian market to foreign exchange trade, Villazon being the border city with Argentina.

The modernisation of this road combined with the touristic attractiveness of the argentinian provinces Juyjuy and Salta will revitalize bolivian tourism, especially in Villazon’s region.

If some projects arouse local population craze, there are some others which give rise to anger.

A 186 miles (300 km) road had to link both Beni and Cochabamba provinces by 2014 and enable to open them up. The route had to go accross a 2 471 053 acres ecological reserve (1 million hectares) (Tipnis national park). Locals (15 000 amazonian indians), that had had to move out, refused the project and started a long walk to La Paz. A violent repression from the State provoked a national support to the project renunciation. Evo Morales’ government had to cancel it.

Population is aware that Bolivia must develop itself but they also know that natural and cultural heritage preservation is valuable in a wolrd loosing local identity.

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