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In the Newsroom

September 22, 2008
Brazil plans to improve highways

Brazilian workers pave a road.

Bryan Myers reported with Megan Thompson from Brazil on an upcoming story on roads and infrastructure.

Read Bryan’s first blog post from the field: Truckin’ through Brazil.

According to Pedro Bastos, an HSBC investment officer based in Brazil, “We need to invest in highways, rail networks, and airports. We need to improve our infrastructure to take our harvests to ports or processing centers. And frankly, we didn’t invest when we needed to.”

Many truckers couldn’t agree more. One trucker we spoke with has been driving along the same shoddy road for 34 years. He delivers eucalyptus wood from Brazil’s central coast to brick kilns near Rio de Janeiro. He said it was about time the government did something, and told us he’s looking forward to the day his trip goes a little smoother and a little faster.

However, we did meet one trucker who said he thought the government was “lying,” saying that officials have a long history of announcing ambitious plans, only for them to result in nothing. He’ll believe it when he sees it, he said.

One of the roads high on the government’s priority list for improvement is the BR 101. The BR 101 is a two-lane road that leads into the important port of Sepetiba, just south of Rio de Janeiro. As it is, the road has trouble handling all the trucks trying to get into the port. The sight of trucks lined up idling alongside the road is common. The 101 is now being widened to four lanes and appears to be close to completion.

Eventually, the government hopes to connect the 101 with another road on the opposite side of Rio de Janeiro, the BR 493. The 493 is also a narrow two-lane, full of bumps and swales, and it too is slated for improvement.

What is the goal of connecting the 101 and 493? To eventually form a bypass around Rio de Janeiro, solving another problem — that of trucks having to pass through the city.

Some of the $250 billion dollars President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wants to spend on Brazil’s infrastructure will come from public coffers. But the rest is expected to come from private investment. This effort to enlist private companies has some wondering if Brazil’s poorer citizens will literally be relegated to the slow lane.

– Bryan Myers

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