January 29, 2012
BALUARTE GORGE, Mexico — High in the wicked folds of the western Sierra Madre, Mexican transportation officials have launched one of the most ambitious road-building projects in history — an experiment in social engineering as much as a structural one.
Across a landscape of yawning ravines and sheer-sided ridges so rugged that locals call it el Espinazo del Diablo — the Devil’s Backbone — the Mexican government is laying down a $1.5 billion “superhighway” that promises to exorcise centuries of isolation and bring an economic boom to one of the country’s poorest and most troubled regions.
When the 140-mile toll road opens as soon as late 2012, it will cut drive time between the interior city of Durango and the Pacific port at Mazatlan from seven hours to 2 1/2, conquering the Sierra’s unholy topography with 62 tunnels and 135 bridges.
More important, Mexican officials say, by completing a modern transportation link between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, the highway will bring wholesome economic development and the rule of law to a place dominated by some of the country’s biggest dope growers and drug gangsters.
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