Mexico City Struggling with Infrastructure Problems

<p>As Mexico City's economy moves from industry to services, it is attracting new businesses but facing a legacy of haphazard infrastructure planning that may threaten its economic prosperity.</p>
January 31, 2008, 11am PST | Michael Dudley
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"Once seen as a hub of kidnapping, corruption and pollution, [Mexico City ] -- the world's eighth-richest -- has come to be appreciated by global corporations flocking to it [for] its strategic location - to the north lies the world's largest market - its 18 free trade agreements, and its cheap, but skilled workforce.

Goldman Sachs predicts that Mexico's economy will become the fifth-largest in the world by 2050, behind China, the United States, India and Brazil. In Mexico City, which contributes more than a third of the nation's GDP, the growth is most pronounced, but it comes with consequences. As the city has grown piecemeal from its Aztec roots, through Spanish colonisation to modern independence, there has never been a co-ordinated plan for urban infrastructure.

Those in the infrastructure industry say that the sheer size of the city makes planning difficult. 'It is different taking mass transport here as compared to in Europe, because we have so many people,' said Adriana Lobo, director-general of the Centre for Sustainable Transport, an influential think-tank.

She added: 'The roads are not enough, and they are never going to be enough. Car growth is above 5 per cent per year, and there are quite big mobility problems. You have got people travelling three hours each way to get to work. There is no way that we can match the growth of cars with growth of the roads.'

One partial solution is the Metrobus. One lane of the main carriageways in and out of the city is allocated solely to single-decker buses that ferry 250,000 people each day at high-speed in and out of the city centre. There are plans to expand the Metrobus system rapidly, as well as a twelfth line for the city's underground network, but a consequence of the gridlock is that businesses have started to look outside the city centre. "

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Published on Thursday, January 31, 2008 in The Times (UK)
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