In recent years we have witnessed the migration of both tourists and homebuyers away from Punta del Este and up the coast toward more exclusive and undeveloped beaches in the states of Maldonado and Rocha.
Highway 10, the Uruguayan equivalent of PCH or Florida’s A1A, meanders 120 miles up the East Coast from the tip of Punta del Este to Aguas Dulces in Rocha.
One missing piece of Highway 10, a bridge over Garzon Lake, would go a long way toward facilitating the flow of residents and tourists along the coast. A recent poll found that 64% of Maldonado residents want a bridge while 81% of Rocha residents feel the same way.
The stronger sentiment in Rocha is understandable considering the region’s isolation and untapped tourism potential. Travelers from Punta del Este to La Paloma must currently detour north to Highway 9, a route that adds 20 miles or 30 minutes.
Fortunately the Uruguay Ministries of Tourism, Housing and Transportation are presenting a united front in favor of the construction of such a bridge to spur economic development in Rocha. One government official said it was ridiculous to think the local economy would depend on sheep herding for another half century. “Urban development will continue and our citizens will benefit with greater employment, business growth and local wealth creation,” said the Mayor of Maldonado, Oscar de los Santos.
Whenever environmental groups raise objections to the new bridge, the government points to the bridge over Jose Ignacio Lake built 40 years ago. In the ensuing four decades, only 10% of the land of Jose Ignacio has been developed thanks to good environmental stewardship in Uruguay. While developer Eduardo Constantini proposes developing 500 acres in conjunction with the Garzon Bridge construction, the government plans to preserve over 81,000 acres of coastal land for parks and nature reserves. (Full Story in Spanish)
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