MHC has taken full responsibility for the design and construction management of the highway, including all bridges and tunnels – a job made harder by the need to keep the existing road open throughout the build. Several of the bridges are long span – four are over 120m (394ft), while one is 640m (2,100ft) with columns 80m (262ft) high, making it one of the tallest in the country. The remaining eight bridges range from 40 to 100m (131 to 328ft) in length – there are also over 1,000m (3,280ft) of tunnels being constructed. At its peak MHC will have up to 1,700 people working at the site (there are currently 400).
Moving a mountain – on a mountain
To give a perspective of the task, over 350,000m3 (12,360,133ft³) of earth has to be moved per kilometer (per 0.62 miles) of road, making this an enormous earthmoving project. Added to that, stabilizing the steep slopes of the road is also crucial, especially so in Colombia’s rainy climate where landslides are commonplace. These same slopes put heavy demands on the transmissions of construction equipment, and the high altitude requires adjustment in the treatment of the biodiesel (the use of biodiesel is a must for government projects). Fortunately, all MHC’s newer Volvos are protected by customer support agreements that require local Volvo dealer Chaneme to provide preventative maintenance, consumables and repairs, all conducted on site.
Mr. Huertas has managed his family company through some of the most difficult times in Colombia’s modern history. Now with a full order book and his 28-year-old son, Esteban, working as managing director for the Bucaramanga-Cucuta project, the company is moving into its eighth decade and fourth generation with great optimism. This, combined with sustained economic recovery after years of strife and recession, creates a bright future for South America’s second most populous country.
Picture 1: Working on the land slide
Picture 2: Volvo – on top of the world
Picture 3: Climbing up the tracks
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