The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism in Mexico (FONATUR) has halted essential works on Highway 307 in Playa Del Carmen, causing extreme difficulties for drivers trying to enter or exit the city. The repairs were due to occur after parts of the road were destroyed in preparation for the Mayan Train: a Mexican intercity railway set to connect the Yucatan region, including Palenque, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.
For the past month, motorists attempting to navigate the highway have claimed that no workers have been seen making repairs, despite a district court ruling calling for the repairs on May 18th: “Highway 307, which runs from the Municipality of Benito Juarez to the Municipality of Tulum, in the State of Quintana Roo, needs maintenance and repairs”.
Highway 307 is integral to tourist travel in the region, as it connects the state of Quintana Roo with Chiapas. The area that is most affected by the unfinished works is a road closure at Avenida 28 de Julio and 106.
This route connects the Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta neighbourhood, as well as the Villamar subdivision.
These sections are heavily tourist-populated, with the luxury resorts of the Grand Hyatt Playa Del Carmen and Viva Wyndham Maya just a stone’s throw away. Highway 307 is also just an 8-minute drive away from Playa Del Carmen beach, which sees thousands of sun-seeking tourists every year. The only way to access the beach from other destinations in the Yucatán is through highway 307, which is causing major traffic and delays due to the influx of visitors.
The 950-mile Maya Train project that is causing the delays is set to open in December 2023 and was first announced by the Mexican government in 2018 as a new way to increase tourism and job opportunities within south-eastern Mexico. The new train route will aim to connect popular tourist destinations with locations that are usually harder to reach, such as Palenque, Bocca Del Cerro, El Triunfo and Campeche.
However, construction delays have not been the only negative impact of the new train route. There have been multiple protests around sections of the project that could cause damage to environmentally rich underground caverns. To make matters worse, there are even fears from Mexican nationals that the increased tourism due to the new route will exacerbate the existing issues of human trafficking and drug cartels in the region.
The president of the Business Coordinating Council of Riveria Maya, Lenin Betancourt, has urged FONATUR to begin repairs as quickly as possible, especially as the summer period brings thousands of tourists into the region.
Multiple hotels in the neighbouring city of Cancun (just a one-hour drive away from Playa del Carmen) have already reached 100% occupancy for June and July, meaning the surrounding infrastructure has to be perfect to accommodate so many tourists.
This is not the first time that repairs have caused delays on highway 307: In February 2021, FONATUR announced that USD $65 million would be put towards the maintenance and conservation of the highway, including the repairs of two sinkholes that were located between Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
This forced traffic into a one-lane system on an adjacent highway, causing long delays and driving hazards.
Whilst there are hopes that the construction of the Mayan Train route will be completed by 2023, tourists travelling to the regions of Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun have been advised to consider how delays on the highway 307 could affect their journey times and to plan accordingly for any delays.
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