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Ensenada Toll Road Collapse Affecting Tourism In Baja California

Geologists say the land supporting the stretch of highway that winds around Salsipuedes Bay, north of Ensenada, is inherently unstable.
Juan Manuel Felix Amarillas, El Mexicano
Geologists say the land supporting the stretch of highway that winds around Salsipuedes Bay, north of Ensenada, is inherently unstable.

The collapse of part of the scenic toll road that runs from Tijuana down the Baja California peninsula has been bad news for the tourism industry in Ensenada.

The highway collapsed on Dec. 28 about 58 miles south of the U.S.–Mexico border, plunging a cement truck some 100 feet toward the ocean. The driver got out and was unhurt.

The stretch of damaged highway runs along a steep cliff above Salsipuedes Bay. “Sal si puedes” translates to “get out if you can.”

The highway now is impassible and traffic is being rerouted onto the old two-lane highway between Tijuana and Ensenada.

Katie Schoolov

Along the Ensenada waterfront, Petra Cruz Garcia sells crafts and souvenirs to tourists, many of them from Tijuana and San Diego.

The extra traffic is creating backups and new hazards. On a recent weekday morning, police directed cars and trucks waiting to round a steep curve in the old Tijuana-Ensenada highway.

Earlier that morning a truck full of scrap metal had smashed through the guardrail and tumbled down the embankment. The driver was reportedly OK.

In Ensenada, businesses that depend on the highway to bring in tourists and merchandise are worried about the impact on their bottom line.

Norma Barreño, who works at a taco stand along the Ensenada waterfront, said business was terrible the last days of the holiday vacation, a time that usually brings in more customers.

She and other vendors said sales were down already thanks to a still-weak economy and fewer U.S. visitors.

Petra Cruz García, who sells woven ponchos, backpacks and other souvenirs along the waterfront, said she thought the extra traffic on the alternate routes was scaring tourists away.

“People don’t leave the house when there’s a lot of traffic,” she said.

Authorities have said it will likely take at least six months to repair the scenic toll road — if they decide to fix it. Some geologists said the land around Salsipuedes Bay is too unstable to rebuild there.

Luis Delgado, a geologist at the research institute CICESE in Ensenada, said the highway was never meant to sustain the level of traffic and heavy loads that travelled it before the collapse.

“The highway was designed for tourism basically,” Delgado said.

He thinks Mexico’s highway administration should consider diverting traffic inland at Salsipuedes to avoid future problems.

Ensenada Toll Road Collapse