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The good news: Downtown Brasilito is finally getting its one-lane bridge replaced with a two-lane bridge. The bad news: Local traffic may be facing a longish detour for the next six months.
The funny news: The detour is on a road called La Borrachera, which means a drunken jag. Maybe this is the backroad people sometimes take when they’re driving drunk?
Engineer Pablo Camacho said in a statement to the press that the contractor, Meco, has 180 days to build a bridge 25 meters long and 10.6 meters wide. The cost is expected to be 605 million colones (roughly 1 million dollars).
The new concrete bridge will have two lanes that are each 3.65 meters wide, plus a pedestrian sidewalk 1.2 meters wide on each side, with a metal rail separating pedestrians and vehicles. Construction began in late February.
A troublesome bridge
If you’ve ever driven through Brasilito, you undoubtedly crossed the one-lane bridge over the Río Zapote in the middle of downtown. Signs require the northbound side to yield to the southbound side — but once there’s an opening for either side to proceed, all the cars lined up there are allowed to pass.
This creates big backups on both sides. Add to this the fact that pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, tractors and horses also have to cross this same bridge, and you have a perfect recipe for gridlock.
Also, if you’re traveling anywhere between Las Catalinas and Huacas, you have to go through Brasilito. To the north lie Flamingo, Surfside, Potrero and Las Catalinas, plus the Monkey Trail that connects to the Playas del Coco region and the airport in Liberia. To the south lie Reserva Conchal, Huacas, Playa Grande, Villarreal, Tamarindo, Belén and beyond.
Tons of traffic traveling between all these places has to pass through Brasilito every day. So this undersized bridge is not just a Brasilito problem, it’s a regional problem.
Enter the brilliant idea of a two-lane bridge with pedestrian lanes. But what to do about through traffic during the 180 days allotted for construction?
It was not feasible to build a temporary bridge next to the old one because there’s not enough space. However, a temporary pedestrian bridge was built for the many locals who need to cross the creek every day on foot. Also, there’s a separate space wide enough for motorcycles to get through.
But for other vehicles, a longish detour went into operation in late February. Here’s how it works.
If you’re approaching from the south (from Huacas), you’ll come to some traffic cones just past the CRIA school and before Reserva Conchal, at the little right-hand gravel turnoff to the Beach Community Church.
The people directing traffic WILL allow you to proceed straight, but you should generally do so only if you’re headed to some destination in Brasilito that’s south of the bridge.
For example, if you want to eat at the Masala Indian Restaurant (which I would highly recommend), you should continue straight here because Masala is a couple hundred meters south of the bridge.
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But if you want to eat at Patagonia Del Mar, you might want to take the detour, because this Argentinian steakhouse is a couple hundred meters north of the bridge. (But you could also park south of the bridge and walk across the pedestrian bridge.)
So if you want to bypass Brasilito in a car, you need to take the little gravel road that leads down to the Beach Community Church. The road crosses a creek here that can be problematic in the rainy season — but workers reused the old one-lane bridge from Brasilito to span this creek, which was an excellent idea.
La Borrachera was previously a dusty gravel road, but it’s now been mostly paved.
The detour is said to be 5 kilometers long (but feels shorter) and wraps around the large Catalina Cove housing development. This road eventually leads back to the main highway (180) at the little shopping plaza where there’s a bakery and coffee shop called Agua y Sal, as well as a lawyer and a veterinarian.
This is where the main road takes a sharp curve to the north, heading for Flamingo. Here you turn right if you want to go to Flamingo, Potrero or points beyond. (But you turn left if you’re headed to north Brasilito, i.e., some point north of the bridge.)
If you approach this detour from the north (Flamingo), you’ll also see traffic cones at this same curve where Agua y Sal is. Here you turn left and follow the same route that emerges on the main highway after Beach Community Church.
Don’t worry about getting lost on this detour, as the few side roads here are marked with signs indicating which way to go.
Guide to Brasilito north and south
If you’re not just passing through but would actually like to visit Brasilito, it’s a good idea to know first which parts are north or south of the now-closed bridge.
The heart of downtown Brasilito is north of the bridge. The central, grassy plaza/soccer field is sometimes used for seasonal rodeos, but it normally serves as a parking lot for people walking to Playa Conchal. Sometimes called the most beautiful beach in Costa Rica, Conchal is well worth a visit, but if you’re not a guest of Reserva Conchal you have to park in Brasilito and walk about 500 meters to get there.
The bus station in Brasilito is also north of the bridge, right across from the plaza. There are several smallish restaurants and a couple of modest hotels. Also north of the bridge are the grocery stores Super Conchal and Super Brasilito, the steakhouse Patagonia del Mar, the Camarón Dorado restaurant, the Deli Café coffee shop, a couple of schools and a pharmacy.
South of the bridge, Brasilito is basically a one-road town where all businesses are on the main highway. Here you’ll find the Hotel Conchal and Papaya Restaurant, the New Shogun Asian restaurant, the Super New China, the Sea Star Souvenir shop and the aforementioned Masala.
Also south of the bridge is the local police station, the Ebais health clinic, a handy BCR ATM, and Reserva Conchal, the crown jewel of vacation resorts on this coast. For medical emergencies, there are two private hospitals nearby, the Metropolitano on the road to Huacas and the Beach Side Clinic on the road to Playa Grande.
In the long run
Any temporary inconvenience aside, the two-lane Brasilito bridge is absolutely necessary. It will unclog a major regional choke point and make everything move faster, including critical services like police and ambulances.
Also, the newly paved detour is actually a good road now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people continue to take it after the Brasilito bridge is finished, just to avoid the slowdown of driving through a small town.
Perry Carlile, pastor of the Beach Community Church, likes the new bridge on his little road, which will allow worshippers to get there in the rainy season without an ark.
“Don’t have to walk on water to get to the church now,” he said.