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Work is 43% complete on the US$25mn San Rafael tunnel on Bolivia's Route 3 and, together with a 48km stretch of road, should be ready in 1Q03, newspaper El Diario quoted La Paz prefect German Velasco as saying.
A consortium led by Brazil's Andrade Gutierrez is drilling the 1.3km tunnel from both sides, with 568m drilled on the southern side and 25m on the northern side, according to Velasco, who inspected work this week.
Presidency minister Jose Luis Lupo has guaranteed financing for the remainder of the works, including paving. "We are ahead of schedule on the tunnel thanks to the drilling program that has been able to advance at a rate of more than 100m per month," Velasco said.
President Jorge Quiroga recently confirmed that US$10mn in further financing had been obtained to pave the stretch, which was previously designed to be a gravel road.
Meanwhile the country's highways commission SNC reported a 4km stretch on the route that presents geological complexities would now cost US$15mn. La Paz councilors accuse the agency of corruption, saying the Cotapata-Santa Barbara works had been halted for this same reason.
Route 3 runs northeast of La Paz to Las Yungas.