March 3, 2017
Truck Traffic Slowly Resuming on BR-163 in Northern Brazil
With the help of the Brazilian Army, the National Infrastructure and Transportation Department (Dnit), the Brazilian Airforce, and the Federal Highway Police, the impassable sections of highway BR-163 were improved enough this week to allow some truck traffic to start moving. After heavy rains in mid-February, several unpaved and impassable sections of the highway resulted in a traffic jam of up to 5000 trucks carrying soybeans north to ports on the Amazon River. Some drivers had been stranded for up to 20 days waiting for emergency repairs.
According to SoNoticias, initially on Wednesday, trucks that were empty and heading south to Mato Grosso were allowed to start moving through the worst sections and then on Thursday, trucks loaded with soybeans heading north were allowed to start going through. In the recently opened sections, it is still only suitable for one-way traffic, so authorities alternate the flow of traffic. The worst section was a five-kilometer stretch that had basically turned into mud after the heavy rains.
Officials from Dnit indicated that work to widen the road and improve drainage would continue in the worst areas. Dnit indicated that they hope to have 60 kilometers of the worst section paved by the end of 2017. The entire expanse of BR-163 from Mato Grosso to the Amazon River is hoped to be completed by the end of 2018.
According to the president of the Soybean and Corn Producers Association of Mato Grosso (Aprosoja), the situation on BR-163 is a national embarrassment. This is the principal route for grain exports from northern Mato Grosso and the highway was scheduled to be paved years ago.
The blocked highway has resulted in losses in the millions of reals for trucking companies, barging operations, exporters, ports, and farmers in northern Mato Grosso. Additionally, five municipalities along the highway have declared a state of emergency due to dwindling supplies of food and fuel.