Panama City is home to a quarter of the country’s population: in 2009 the Cinta Costera (the coastal beltway) was finally completed at a cost of $189 million, but even this new thoroughfare was unable to compensate for the increasing automobile traffic flooding onto Panama’s roadways. It was clear that the capital needed a modern, efficient and frequent light railway to connect the hearth of the city with its suburb, reducing the congestions in the city.
Several alternatives were considered. Trams were not a viable option, as they would share the lane space with the existing traffic. An elevated railroad was rejected because the columns would restrict the carriageway of the narrow downtown streets, adding to noise and pollution.
A dual solution was identified as the best option: an underground transit line under the heart of the city, emerging in suburbs to run on elevated tracks, and today, this option is carrying passengers throughout the city of Panama.
In 2015, “Line1″ of Metro de Panama celebrated its first year of activity. The opening came 38 months after the start of construction. Overall, the project costs $2 billion, making it the country’s second most expensive project in the past century after the Panama Canal expansion.
With an extension of 13.7km, the Metro was built by the Brazilian company Norberto Odebrecht, the Spanish FCC, and Alstom, a French company that specialized in high-tech productions. The cost of the first line was $1.88 billion. The operation to the San Isidro station started in August 2015, increasing the number of passenger stations to 14. Of the overall length, 7.2km runs underground; the same distance on an elevated viaduct and 1.3km is in trench.
According to the Secretary of the Metro, Line1 is moving more than 180,000 on a daily basis; when the viaduct linking Los Andes with San Isidro the amount of passenger will reach 200,000.The new line is currently transporting 23,000 passengers per hour at peak demand, which is in line with originally projected estimates. Daily passenger demand, however, is over 50% higher than was originally estimated.
The National Secretary of the Metro recently announced the construction plans for a second line, that will stretch for more than 20 km with 17 new stations and 21 trains with five wagons each. During an interview with TBY, the minster stressed the contribution of the project in terms of job generation, “each line of the metro will generate between 300 and 400 direct jobs to cover operation and maintenance. Additionally, 300 police officers provide security service to Line 1 of the metro. Similar direct employment for lines 2 and 3 are expected. During construction of a metro line as many as 4,000 direct jobs are generated at the peak execution. Average employment throughout the construction period of 4 to 5 years should be around 2,000 jobs”
The government is already working on the project related to Line 3: 27km with 14 new stations. The construction phase will last five years and Line 3 is scheduled to open in 2022.