Linking the Americas:

Progress and Problems of the Darien Gap Highway

PSAD-78-65: Published: Feb 23, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1978.

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In 1971, the United States, Colombia, and Panama agreed to construct the final link in the Pan American Highway system, the Darien Gap, through parts of Colombia and Panama. In 1968, the highway was estimated to cost $150 million, with the United States contributing $100 million (66%) and Panama and Colombia contributing $30 million and $20 million respectively. In March 1977, Department of Transportation officials estimated the total cost would be $285 million, almost twice the original estimate.

As of July 31, 1977, about $59 million had been expended on the highway. The completion date for the link, originally scheduled for 1981, has slipped more than 4 years to 1985, but this date is not now valid. Progress has been delayed by lower-than-anticipated congressional funding and by a court injunction on design and new construction. In addition, the National Security Council advised against participation in highway construction in Colombia until the spread of foot-and-mouth disease is controlled. U.S. officials have expressed concern that completion of the highway could result in the spread of the disease northward to cattle in the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Colombia has not yet implemented certain safeguards outlined in a 1973 agreement, including adequate inspection and control of livestock. Colombian officials have proposed expanding the control program along the entire north coast.

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