The bridge is closed to all traffic, even foot traffic. It will be closed for a while since the bridge will need to be completely rebuilt. This is the only route to the coast for hundreds of miles. I cannot imagine what life will be like for residents of this area or for truck drivers who need to travel this way. For those traveling from our nearby teeming metropolis of Teofilo Otoni (pop: 135,000) to the coast the detour will cost them an additional 100 km and three hours travel time. For those poor souls that used to live in Carlos Chagas and want to travel to Nanuque? The detour will take them nearly five hours to travel what once took them 45 minutes.
(for you geography nuts, here’s a map. The detour takes you south to Ecoporanga then north again through Murcurici to Nanuque).
Brazil is immense. Arguably one of its biggest weaknesses is lack of infrastructure. Once you are outside the major cities the roads are winding with little passing room even if you include the shoulders (which Brazilians certainly do). Problems with one road means hours of driving in the other direction to find a way around. Travel is never quick. Bridges are in sorry shape. Pothole, speed bumps, and accidents are common. I won’t even start on what the road signs look like inland (assuming you can find one…).
Amazingly, Brazilians prefer their feet firmly planted on the ground and usually opt for bus trips that take days to traverse the country versus air flight. Which means that even for us travelers who don’t mind a little air time there aren’t local airports or flights to serve us. An ironic chuckle escapes me every time a relative offhandedly mentions “dropping by” on their next vacation to Brazil, I explain we’re 5-8 hours away–one way–from the closest airport, and jaws flop and eyes pop. Ah, we’re so spoiled by all the proximity on the East Coast of the USA!
President Dilma has promised in investment of about USD$66 billion (R$137,8 billion) between 2011 and 2014 in transportation. In my mind it couldn’t come soon enough. My husband and I have back-burnered more than one small business idea simply because it’s so hard to get parts or certain materials. For most of these things if we need them, we’d have to travel to São Paolo (18 hours away). The city of Salvador has a growing port, but without strong lines of transport there’s no way for commerce to take advantage of this emerging resource. Brazil might be a booming world economy but to move the majority of the nation from the third world to the first they’re going to have to build themselves some roads.