Panama begins subway construction
Construction on the first metro in Central America began in Panama City Monday, a 1.6 billion dollar project that will open to riders in 2014.
"Today we are beginning construction of line one of the Panama metro," Metro General Secretary Roberto Roy told AFP.
The subway -- the ninth in Latin America but the first in Central America -- is being built by an international consortium that includes France's Alstom, Brazil's Norberto Odebrecht and Spain's Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas.
Alstom will design and build the trains and electro-mechanical systems for the metro.
Roy said the system will open with an initial capacity of 15,000 passengers an hour in each direction with more being added over a period of years to peak at 40,000 passengers.
The dig begins in Panama City's historic Cinco de Mayo Plaza where the first station will be built. Pipes, posts and other obstacles were being removed to clear the ground for the station, Roy said.
When it is completed, trains will travel the 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) line in 23 minutes with stops at 13 stations, some above ground and others below. It will run between the densely populated San Miguelito municipality and the Albrook bus station.
"We want to begin metro operations in 2014," said Roy.
That would coincide with the last year in office of President Ricardo Martinelli, who made construction of the metro one of his main campaign promises.
"I want to be remembered as the person who transformed Panama's transportation system and improved the quality of life of Panamanians," Martinelli said in awarding the contract.
The government plans four subway lines in all, one of them over the Panama Canal.
© 2011 AFP