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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Hatillo-to-Aguadilla highway extension won’t impact karst hills, governor says

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi says a planned highway extension from Hatillo to Aguadilla will be constructed using elevated roadways to avoid any risk to the northwestern region’s karst hills.

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Thursday that a section of highway that leads from Hatillo to Aguadilla will be constructed using elevated roadways on PR-2, ruling out any risk a cross-country route would pose for the northwestern region’s karst hills.

“The one that is already underway, at the design and environmental study phase, is the extension of PR-22 to Hatillo, without impacting the karst,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “Those are my instructions; that’s already underway. The next phase, which has not started but is planned, is from Hatillo to Aguadilla through elevated routes.”

“It is so as not to really impact the karst,” he added, referring to the particularly distinct limestone landform features that are found in the region of the island known as the karst belt. “It is being designed that way, specifically so as not to impact the karst, because the public policy is that it should not be impacted.”

Asked if that statement does not represent a change of position, the governor replied, “it is not a change, because it is in my government program that was previously the campaign plan.”

“So I had it there already. My commitment to this [highway] extension is that it be done in such a way that it does not impact the karst,” Pierluisi replied. “When the technicians of the highway authority were consulted, the route was drawn in such a way that it does not impact the karst and the result is that there are two phases: the first to Hatillo without impacting karst, the second, from Hatillo to Aguadilla without impacting karst. But in that case, it can’t be cross country because there is karst.”

Both Transportation and Public Works Secretary Eileen Vélez Vega and Highways and Transportation Authority Director Edwin González Montalvo said, in interviews and in public hearings, that at the time no action had been taken for a final determination on the route, although they let it be known that the construction estimate for the highway extension project would be $1.2 billion.

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