Carretera Central (Puerto Rico)

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Highway Carretera Central
PR-1 PR-14
La Piquiña
Route information
Maintained by Puerto Rico Dept. of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP)
Length: 134 km (83 mi)
Existed: 1898 – present
Major junctions
North end: PR-1 in San Juan
South end: PR-2 in Ponce
Highway system
Puerto Rico Highways

The Carretera Central is a historic north–south central highway in Puerto Rico, linking the cities of San Juan and Ponce by way of Rio Piedras, Caguas, Cayey, Aibonito, Coamo, and Juana Diaz. Plans for the road started in the first half of the 19th century, and the road was fully completed in 1898.[1]

Route description[edit]

The highway runs from the north coast city of San Juan to the south coast city of Ponce via Rio Piedras, Caguas, Cayey, Aibonito, Coamo, and Juana Diaz. The highway corridor is now signed as Puerto Rico Highway 14 from Ponce to Cayey, and as Puerto Rico Highway 1 from Cayey to San Juan.[2]

History[edit]

In the 1820s, the Spanish colonial government in Puerto Rico, under the direction of Governor Miguel de la Torre took the first steps for building a highway connecting the towns of San Juan and Rio Piedras [a] and incorporating temporary wooden bridges for river crossings.[3]

During the 1830s an unpaved wagon road was built linking Ponce, Juana Diaz and Coamo to satisfy the commercial sugar production needs of that area.[3] In 1846 a new masonry bridge was built by Spanish engineer Santiago Cortijo to connect the capital city island of San Juan with the rest of the Puerto Rico mainland. Meanwhile, construction of a 41-kilometer macadam highway between San Juan and Caguas, designed by Colonel engineer Diego Galvez, was begun. Construction of the San Juan-Caguas span was first under the direction of Colonel Tulio O'Neill and was later completed, in 1853, under Commander Santiago Cortijo. After the completion of the bridge over the Rio Piedras river in 1853, the construction project completed bridges over Quebrada Frailes in 1855, the Concepcion bridge over Caguas's Rio Cañas in 1856, and the bridge over the Caguas's Cagüitas River in 1857.[4]

In 1858 Puerto Rican civil engineer Timoteo Luberza designed the paved highway between Coamo, at the southern foothills of Cordillera Central, and Juana Diaz, its first neighboring town due southwest, for the municipality of Coamo. Three years later, by 1861, a fair portion of this highway had already been completed.[4]

The most challenging segment of Carretera Central, the one involving the mountainous segment between Caguas in the north and Coamo in the south, was built under the 1859 General Highway Plan, a complete highway plan to connect the coastal town with those in the mountainous interior. The plan was approved by the Spanish Crown in 1860 and it included the creation of "first order" and "second order" highways. In 1860, the central government commissioned engineer Niceto Blajot to design the paved version of Carretera Central between Ponce and Juana Diaz, which until then was a dirt and gravel road.[5]

A former Casilla de Caminero on PR-14 (now Ave. Tito Castro) in Ponce, Puerto Rico

The then-municipal highways connecting Ponce, Juana Diaz and Coamo were made part of the state-run Carretera Central between 1875 and 1880. Meanwhile, the first stretch of road built exclusively under the Delegation of Public Works (equivalent to a department of public works) was the northern mountainside segment between Caguas and Cayey. This segment was started in 1875 and completed in 1881 under the direction of site engineers Raimundo Camprubi and Enrique Gadea-Giraldez. It was designed by engineer Manuel Lopez-Bayo.[1]

On the southern mountainside of Cordillera Central, the stretch from Coamo to Aibonito was designed by Timoteo Luberza in 1861. Construction started in 1874 under Ricardo Campubri. It included 7.5 kilometers of the steep Asomante slopes, and was completed in 1881. The width of the road in this stretch was reduced from 6.5 meters to 6.0 meters, to reduce costs associated with building in such steep terrain. The segment between Aibonito and Cayey was designed by Manuel Lope-Bayo, begun in 1879 and completed in 1886. It included bridges over Quebrada Honda and Quebrada Toita. As in the Coamo to Aibonito stretch, the stretch from Aibonito to Cayey has a width of 6.0 meters instead of 6.5 meters. The stretch was so treacherous that it was the last to be completed and the most expensive.[1] It soon acquired the popular name La Piquiña.[6]

Functional by 1886, Carretera Central was the first highway to cross Puerto Rico's east–west mountain range, the Cordillera Central.[7] In 1886, it was a 134-kilometer (83 mi) route with 13 permanent bridges and 33 "casillas de camineros" (housing for road maintenance technicians).[7]

The Arenas Bridge, constructed in 1894 to bring the Carretera Central across the Rio de la Plata, was the longest bridge constructed in Puerto Rico under Spanish government.[8]

The road, spanning the entire length between San Juan and Ponce, was fully completed in 1898 and christened Carretera Central.[1]

Other facts[edit]

In 1898, during the Spanish–American War, American forces moved from south to north over the Carretara Central. One bridge was demolished by the Spanish to delay the American advance.[9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rio Piedras, today a part of San Juan, was a distinct town and municipality until 1951.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico, c. 1840 - 1950. MPS. Luis F. Pumarada O'Neill. Arqueologia Industrial Caribeña. National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. 31 July 1994. p.7. Accessed 25 May 2016.
  2. ^ National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form: Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico, c. 1840-1950. Luis F. Pumarada O'Neill. U.S. National Park Service. p. 7. 31 July 1994.
  3. ^ a b Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico, c. 1840 - 1950. MPS. Luis F. Pumarada O'Neill. Arqueologia Industrial Caribeña. National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. 31 July 1994. p.4. Accessed 25 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico, c. 1840 - 1950. MPS. Luis F. Pumarada O'Neill. Arqueologia Industrial Caribeña. National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. 31 July 1994. p.5. Accessed 25 May 2016.
  5. ^ Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico, c. 1840 - 1950. MPS. Luis F. Pumarada O'Neill. Arqueologia Industrial Caribeña. National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form. 31 July 1994. p.6. Accessed 25 May 2016.
  6. ^ La centenaria ruta de la Piquiña. El Nuevo Dia. Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. 1 July 2011. Accessed 25 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b Pumarada-O'Neill, Luis F. (July 31, 1994). "National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation: Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico MPS" (PDF). National Park Service. 
  8. ^ "Historic Places in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: A Travel Itinerary: Arenas Bridge". National Park Service. 
  9. ^ Luis F. Pumarada O'Neill (July 31, 1994), National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation: Historic Bridges of Puerto Rico, c. 1840-1950 (32 KB), National Park Service  External link in |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Carretera Central (Puerto Rico) at Wikimedia Commons