The Hiram Bingham Highway to Machu Picchu, built nearly 67 years ago, could have only a year and five months of “useful life” left, a top government environmental official says.
“If no intervention is taken, that is the length of time that the road could have left to bear traffic,” said José Carlos Nieto, the chief at Machu Picchu of Peru’s National Service of Protected Natural Areas (Sernanp).
The narrow 6-mile serpentine road with 14 nerve-wracking hairpin turns was inaugurated in October 1948. In January 2014, a landslide knocked out several of the road’s switchback corners for several days, forcing thousands of visitors to make the 45-minute trek on foot up to the iconic mountaintop ruins.
This latest warning that the road is nearing risk of collapse due to deterioration comes from the consulting firm Proyectos & Construcciones Silver S.C.R.L, hired by Sernanp.
Consettur Machupicchu S.A.C., the consortium that holds monopolistic control of transport to the Inca citadel, operates a fleet of 22 shuttle buses, carrying between 2,500 and 3,500 tourists to the site each day, and is responsible for the road’s maintenance. The company has faced intense scrutiny over recent years for hiking its fares.
At a celebration of Consettur’s 20th anniversary in Cusco last week, the president of its board of directors, Mario Ccacaño Llave boasted, “We have continuously maintained the Hiram Bingham Highway.”
But Nieto told reporters that Projects & Construction Silver SCRL noted dangerous decreases in the thickness of the asphalt at several critical sections of the road. It also identified geological weak points and cited a lack of proper filtration management of water runoff during the rainy season (December to March).
Consettur carries out maintenance only at trouble points and so far has not implemented an environmental management plan, Nieto said.
“What is needed is a comprehensive intervention,” Nieto said. “That means not only work on the affected areas but the entire route.”
The consulting firm further recommended that Consettur not increase the number of vehicles on the road.
Bingham In Peru To Open Highway To Ancient City
The Day – October 18, 1948
LIMA-PERU (AP) – Former Sen. Hiram Bingham of Salem is in Peru to open a highway which will climb from the Urubamba Valley to an ancient city in the clouds high in the Andes. The highway is named the Carretera Hiram Bingham.
Sen. Bingham accompanied by his wife will be the guest of the Peruvian government. A banquet and ball is being given in their honor by the president of Peru, Dr. José Luis Bustamante y Rivero and his first lady. Senator Bingham, besides his other achievements, is a well-known archaeologist. From 1912 to 1915, under the auspices of Yale University and the National Geographic Society, he headed an expedition into Peru to uncover and excavate the fabulous Inca city of Machu Picchu.
The search for this seat of ancient learning, which had been lost to the world for centuries, ended in his discovery on a mountain peak of the Andes, which towers above the valley of Urubamba. Finding it added a revealing chapter to the colorful history of the ancient Inca civilization.
After his adventure Sen. Bingham wrote two books and several articles. The city is now a magnet for tourists.