Disgraced former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli took office in 2009 with the clear objective of developing a metro system for Panama City – the first of its kind in Central America.
When the project started to take shape, the original master plan envisioned four lines for the system by 2035. After the former secretariat of the metro became the state-owned company and system operator Metro de Panama in 2013, the plans for the system also became more ambitious and more lines were included in the master plan.
In 2017, Metro de Panamá launched a tender to carry out a prefeasibility study on a new master plan. Financed with a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the study was aimed at examining the viability of the design and location of the metro lines and stations proposed in the master plan, particularly regarding the future lines No. 2A, 4 and 5.
The results of the study – prepared by Japanese-French consortium Nippon Koei Lac–Systra – were presented last year and include recommendations to make use of future metro lines to promote well-ordered urban development.
“[The development of the metro system] is a long-term process, a state project that will have to be under execution during the terms of different future governments,” former Metro de Panamá head Roberto Roy told reporters at one of the ceremonies he held to present the analysis.
Based on the most up-to-date master plan, some nine lines are envisioned for the system. Eight of them are expected to be built by 2040, while the ninth would be developed after that.
The plan was prepared based on future demand estimates for the metropolitan area of Panama City, which were developed under the TRANUS system – an integrated land use and transport modeling software program.
With lines 1 and 2 already in operation, and No. 3 already in the tender stage, the study recommends line No. 2A as the next one to be developed. This would be an extension to line No. 2 and is different from the 2km branch that will be built to link that line to the Tocumen international airport.
Line No. 2A would run from the San Miguelito station – a transfer station for lines No. 1 and 2 – to Urracá park. A section of this line would run along a corridor comprising Ricardo J. Alfaro, Manuel Espinosa Batista and Aquilino de la Guardia avenues and would connect to Iglesia del Carmen, a station on line No. 1
A contract to carry out a feasibility study on line No. 2A is currently being tendered and is expected to be awarded shortly. The study, sponsored by Latin American development bank CAF, is scheduled to be completed in 12 months and will serve to define the line’s preliminary design so that the relevant tender documents can be drafted for the construction contract.
The line to be developed afterwards would be line No. 5, which would link the La Exposición neighborhood in Calidonia subdivision – where it would connect to Santo Tomás, a station on line No. 1 – with the San Francisco and Parque Lefevre subdivisions. It would cross the Bella Vista neighborhood, the financial district, Calle 50 avenue and the Costa del Este and Santa María neighborhoods. It would also connect to El Crisol, a station on line No. 2.
The next line to be built would be No. 4, which would link Curundú – where it would connect to a future station on line No. 1 to be located in that area – with the Don Bosco subdivision. The route of the line would run along the Nacional and Transístmica avenues up to España Avenue, where it would connect again with line No. 1 at Fernández de Córdoba station. It would then continue along José Agustín Arango, where it would connect to line No. 5 in the Ciudad Deportiva area.
The sixth line would link Albrook, the former site of the US military base of the same name, with the Ciudad del Saber complex, the canal’s Miraflores locks and the Ciudad de la Salud complex; while the seventh would be a tourist line linking the capital’s Casco Antigua historic area with the Amador Causeway, a road connecting the mainland with four islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Line No. 8 would connect the Villa Zaíta and Las Cumbres neighborhood with Don Bosco, while the ninth line would be a monorail linking the expanded canal area with the Panama Pacífico special economic zone and the city of Vacamonte.
Although not exactly a metro project, the master plan also envisions the construction of a cable car line for San Miguelito, a city and district within Panama City’s metropolitan area. This line would connect residential and commercial areas in San Miguelito with the transfer station of the same name also located in that area, and which connects lines No. 1 and 2 of the metro.
This five-station cable car line would be developed under a concession and would be financed with private funds.
ONGOING AND COMPLETED PROJECTS
With works starting in 2011, the first line of the system opened in 2014, linking Panama City’s Albrook sector to San Isidro. The line required US$1.8bn in investments, is 13.7km long and comprised of 14 elevated and underground stations. The line is used by 240,000-280,000 passengers a day.
A US$204mn contract to design and build a 2.2km extension of line No. 1 was awarded in May to Consorcio Línea Panamá Norte, which is comprised of Spanish firm OHL and Portuguese company Mota-Engil. However, that decision is still pending approval from the general directorate of public contracting.
The extension will run from San Isidro terminal to Villa Zaíta in the northern sector of Panama City’s Las Cumbres area, and the works also involve construction of a multimodal terminal and parking lot at the future Villa Zaíta station. Works must be finished within 33 months.
Meanwhile, the US$2.1bn line No. 2 was opened in April. Construction was the responsibility of Consorcio Línea 2, a group consisting of Spanish firm FCC Construcciones and Brazil’s Odebrecht. The elevated line runs above the Pan American highway and Domingo Díaz avenue and has 16 stations, linking San Miguelito to Nuevo Tocumen.
The largest public infrastructure project after the Panama Canal expansion, construction of line No. 3 is currently in the tender stage.
The project is expected to be completed in 54 months and will require approximately US$2.6bn in investments. The bids submitted by four consortiums are currently still being reviewed.