In general, the roads in Costa Rica are a running joke with ex-pats and another reason to shrug by the Ticos. Pretty much, outside of San José, you'd better get used to it and learn the art of 4-wheelin' if you get off the beaten track at all. Here's a report back home from one of our good friends here that pretty much sums up the situation and speaks to the spirit of Ticos in how they deal with these kinds of everyday realities:
"Everyone solves their problems in different ways. I am often reminded that I do live in a foreign country by the way the Ticos solve their problems. Most of the time, I am amazed at their creativity, diligence and intelligence. Sometimes their light-heartedness and natural happiness comes through and everyone including the Ticos laugh. This is one of those times. I admit that you really have to be here to truly enjoy it.
The only thing I truly dislike here are the roads. The highways are fine, but the auxiliary roads are awful. They are steep, narrow, slick and in some places down right dangerous. Four-wheel drive vehicles are a necessity. The road to our house is not one of the worst, but it is far from being good. (It is a little less than 2 miles from the highway to our house.) There was a hole in the road on one of the hills. The hole continued to grow and get worse. Cars were dropping in and the trucks (and there are a lot of trucks) were making it really bad. This morning we went to town and found a tree in the middle of the road. Someone had planted a tree in the mud hole. So now we have a mango tree in the middle of the road. It is not a small tree it is at least ten feet tall with lots of beautiful branches. Problem solved."
Of course, just planting a tree in the mess pictured above would have been less than an optimal solution.
This slide, caused by improper placement of the drainage tube below the surface, about a year ago, happened just a couple of weeks ago on the InterAmericana highway right across from the road leading up to our neighborhood. If you've traveled the highway from the Cerro down to San Isidro you've seen a couple of these kinds of lane "departures" along the way, that after years have not been fixed.
In this case, I was pleasantly surprised that someone got on the ball and started repairs (after first putting up barriers and warning signs, since this is on a blind curve!) within a week. Phenomenal. This probably happened in a timely manner because the original work was done by a private contractor and they are the ones doing the repair. There is an accepted gradation around here with respect to the timeliness and quality of road work that goes like this:
A- Best - Private contractors (obviously the most expensive, too)
B+ CONAVI (federal level, only work on national highways)
B- the municipalidad (the city/county of Pérez Zeledón)
F- MOPT (I hate these guys!!)
I also must admit that, in general, all the roads I have regularly traveled over the last 2 years or so have improved. And there are some shining examples of accomplishment such as the new Costanera (coast highway) from Dominical to Quepos and the new toll road into San José from the west. Poco a poco!