The highway between David and Santiago in Panama has been under construction for quite a while. It is a huge job. They have been working hard and getting a lot done. We could see quite a difference from the last time we went through there. But there is still a lot more to do so this job won’t be finished for some time yet. One of my big concerns is the cyclists that come through this area. I worry about their safety in heavy traffic, often with no shoulder or space to get out of the way.
The biggest concern is the part between David and Santiago because there is no alternate route. We took the bus to Panama City last week so I took the opportunity to take photographs. On the way out we were in the second row looking through a windshield with cracks, and on the way back we were in the very front seat of the upper level so until it started to get dark, it was a great place to take photos.
Setting off from David, the construction begins before you even get out of the city.
Many areas have no shoulders or gravel shoulders, and there is a lot of navigating through lanes marked by movable markers.
Sometimes traffic is routed on the old road, and sometimes on the new road. There is heavy equipment on the move which sometimes interrupts the flow of traffic.
There are many bridges in various stages of construction.
Lane changes are very common.
Another bridge, this one partly finished.
Parts of the highway look very good with both lanes paved, dividers in the middle, and even painted lane markers. A cyclist could ride on the almost finished new part.
There are other parts where traffic is on the old road, and the other side is too torn up for riding.
I think it is really cool to see the bridges under construction
another stretch with the unused side looking very good. A cyclist could make good use of this.
This was taken on the way back. The sun was getting low in the sky and the light was shining off the road.
Another bridge under construction. The clouds were really pretty that afternoon.
There were a few areas that were only one lane and construction was going on all around you. Thankfully these were few and delays for one lane rows were short.
Even if the bridge is getting close to done, the approaches on either side need to be built.
Just east of Guabala and the checkpoint, there is an option to take route 5 through Sona and on to Santiago. It is a bit longer and there are more hills according to cyclists who have taken this route, but it is very scenic, has much less traffic, and is safer than continuing on the highway.
But, for those who want to see what it looks like on the highway between Guabala and Santiago, here are some photos.
The traffic on this trip spent quite a bit of time on new road, and it was such a pleasure to ride on a smooth and comfortable road.
The other side of the road was in various states of construction.
There are a lot of bridges needed, and it is a lot of work to make even one.
There is a bit of highway where work hasn’t even been started yet but it was far less than when we made our last trip through here a few months ago.
There are areas of heavy machinery working on the sides of the hills by the highway, and no shoulders or spaces for cyclists.
Here they are making the huge concrete beams that will be the supports for the bridge up ahead.
It looks like the road is built with rocks, then finer rocks, and gravel, and then finer gravel, and so on gradually building up until there is a smooth and solid base that can be paved.
A water truck sprays down the base
This area looks almost finished
Other areas are full of detours
This is leaving Panama City. Between the city and Santiago you can expect four lane road all the way. The shoulders are in various states of smoothness but at least with four lanes there is a way for traffic to get around cyclists.
This is outside of Penonome. There are a lot of new windmills here that I’d never seen before. I think windmills are very cool!
Now we are on the return trip, and road construction starts again before you are even out of Santiago.
More detours, but I enjoyed some pretty scenery as well
I think the worst roads are west of Santiago. Traffic is still driving on parts of the old bumpy road just to remind you how bad it is, and how happy we are to be getting a new highway.
The old road is so bad that traffic is all over the road trying to avoid the potholes and big cracks. We won’t miss this at all!
More old, cracked, bumpy road, but also some very pretty scenery.
We were stopped for a minute while this fuel truck made its way across the highway.
At one point they had a whole factory set up. It looked like it was made to crush rock and make the various grades of gravel.
These strange looking machines were chewing up rocks and spitting out gravel.
As the afternoon wore on the clouds and scenery became more and more beautiful.
I think I photographed this bridge from the other direction the day before. Yes there are some significant hills to keep the cyclists challenged.
I just like the way the light shines off the pavement here.
A very lucky shot of a guy on his horse crossing the highway.
We are going to be so happy when the highway is finished! It’s going to be such an improvement, and such a pleasure. I suppose spending two days in a bus isn’t the greatest pleasure but it will be better when the road is smooth and the driver can make good time.
Why did we spend two days in the bus? We had a very good reason. We applied for cedulas (a permanent identification card similar to a social security card in the US) with the help of Luis, our guy in Panama City. He notified us that everything was done and they were ready for us to come in. We had to go to Panama City in person to check that all the information was correct, pay $65 each, and get our pictures taken. We were told to wait one week and then check at the Tribunal Electoral here in David. We went in on Wednesday and as promised, our cards had been sent here and were waiting for us to pick them up.
We now both have cedulas! This is a step beyond residency and really makes us look and feel a part of this country. It also has a number that won’t change every time our passport number changes (which was our ID number before this). We didn’t have to get cedulas but I wanted to, just because it feels good and I love being a part of this country.
About Kris Cunningham
We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
The bypass through Sona is so much better than the section between Santiago and the Migration checkpoint. Have done it several times now and will continue to use it until the Interamerica is completed.
I’ve heard other drivers say that too. It makes you wonder why people take the highway when there is another option.
Hi, I’m making my first trip to Boquete 9/23. I found your blog and I am excited to see Panama!
That is just a month! I hope you have a wonderful time. 🙂
Great post Kris!
Copa Airlines .. David to PTY on Tuesday and Wednesdays, $44 one way.
Must book 4 weeks out.
Till they get the highway done that will be our way to travel!
Great to see you and Joel today!
Looking forward to our bike trip with you! in 2016.
J & S
If we are flying out and can avoid a hotel stay, that’s a great way to go.
It was great to see you too and I’m excited to go riding with you!
Congrats in getting your Cedulas !
I believe that you can now get your Panamanian Passports ?
I believe you can apply for citizenship and passports with your cedula 5 years after you get your residency, though I have heard that with our pensianado residency we would not be eligible.
I imagine it is dangerous for bicyclists on the road. There are many hit and runs where I live, either a person on a bicycle or a walker. There are three-four a day in every newspaper here. It’s really sad. People hurry too much all the time.
I think here the traffic generally doesn’t move that fast and driver are considerate of cyclists, but out on the highway where people are often trying to get across the country in the middle of all that mess, it could be a different story.