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Volume 18, Number 4
April 25, 2012

Panama Spanish Schools in Bocas del Toro and in Boquete, by the beach and in the mountains

lifestyle

Also in this section:
Wendy Reaman's scenes from the Azuero Fair
Eric's oatmeal mango cookies
Mariano Rivera's batting practice injury may end his playing days
Video scenes from the 2012 Portobelo Triathlon
Panama hosts the regional Special Olympics
Anselmo Moreno vs David De La Mora, the whole bout on video
Democrats Abroad gather and plot
Homeless
An Interior-style birthday matanza
José Ponce's Panama scenes
Paving the Casco Viejo's streets: Are they doing it right?
Yippie Girl: an interview with Judy Gumbo
Don't squeeze the avocados
Judith Salazar de De León and the new ACHIMPA board
Things that people here should know about US immigration law

A lot of articles from other publications and general commentary by various people about different aspects of life in Panama --- and freewheeling discussions about them --- can be found on our constantly updated Facebook page


A cat rescue behind the dumpster, but check out the street paving.
Archive photo by Spay Panama


Paving Casco Viejo: are they doing it right?
by Eric Jackson

It is commonly said that the streets in the Casco Viejo are "cobblestone," and maybe several layers down, if you get to the streets as they were built in the wake of Henry Morgan's 1670 destruction of Panama Viejo when the Spanish city moved from there to what is now the corregimiento of San Felipe, you might find actual cobblestones.

Cobblestones are generally rounded, naturally occurring stones that traditionally were laid out with mortar or compacted dirt or sand between them, and where still used on modern streets that bear the weight of automobiles are generally set in concrete.


Granite cobblestones in Devon County, England. Photo by Tom Jolliffe

What we see on the street surfaces and some of the sidewalks and plazas of Panama City's Casco Viejo, on the other hand, are bricks or setts. Bricks are manufactured, and if they are going to be used to pave surfaces over which motor vehicles are to be driven, they must be fired. Setts are quarried and shaped stones.

In many cities where old streets are being restored, there are layers of cobblestones, setts or bricks that have been covered with asphalt or concrete or both. It's not unusual, but not cheap, to dig up, clean by sandblasting, and reinstall the old stones, bricks or setts. In Lawrence, Kansas, several downtown streets were restored with salvaged bricks, at a cost of between $200,000 and $300,000 per block, as opposed to $100,000 to $150,000 had they paved with asphalt. It is argued, however, that a brick surface lasts longer than an asphalt one, at least if proper bricks are used and they are laid correctly.

Another problem with restoration of old surfaces is that the materials may not be suitable for modern traffic. Cobblestones, for example, do not make a surface that is particularly desirable to brake on, especially at a high speed or when wet. Bricks or setts from the horse and buggy days may just disintegrate under the weight and abrasion of modern traffic.

There are standards, generally set by private institutions and adopted by governments in codes or purchasing specifications. The private US testing group ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, has set standards for Heavy Vehicular Paving Brick, which have been adopted by governments in most places around the world. The bricks should be manufactured from clay, shale, or similar naturally occurring earthy substances and subjected to firing. The high temperature heat treatment should develop sufficient fired bonds between the material particles to produce the required strength and durability. There are local variations, as in some locales freezing and thawing are issues and in others they are not, and so on.

The oldest materials found in Casco Viejo streets were surely quarried or manufactured in Panama, but these days we are not producing those materials.

Along comes Odebrecht with a contract to repave the Casco Viejo streets, and the complaints came quickly. Local historic preservationists complained that yellowish bricks were being put in as patches among spots of reddish ones, and that it looks awful. Architects alleged as well that substandard bricks, which do not stand up well to traffic or to our wet tropical climate, were being used. Odebrecht said that its subcontractor is ordering the materials from the United States --- which is not necessarily the same as to say that the right bricks are being ordered.

Photographer José Ponce, a long-time Casco Viejo resident, raised another issue. "Odebrecht is not redoing the American sewer system under Casco Viejo before redoing the streets," he noted. "To redo the sewers, the streets will have to be torn up again."

A more recent arrival than Ponce, Mary Roush, lived in Richmond, Virginia when it was restoring Historic Church Hill so has points of reference about restoration standards. She finds the failure to match the color of the existing surfaces annoying. On a more functional level, she observed that Calle 1 appears to be under reconstruction as a flat surface, whereas well-built streets and roads are slightly higher in the middle, with a crown and two shoulders. Rebuilding streets without crowns, she expects, is going to create drainage problems.

For local resident and activist Henrye Lombardo rebuilding the Casco Viejo streets for automobiles, except for delivery and emergency vehicles, is a bad idea anyway. "I would put up parking structures around Plaza Cinco de Mayo, and from there, from the pedestrian mall into the Casco Viejo, no more cars." He would restore the old municipal trolley cars that went up Avenida B, and encourage bicycles.


By the dawn's early light you can see the bad patches. Photo by José F. Ponce





   
 


Also in this section:

Wendy Reaman's scenes from the Azuero Fair
Eric's oatmeal mango cookies
Mariano Rivera's batting practice injury may end his playing days
Video scenes from the 2012 Portobelo Triathlon
Panama hosts the regional Special Olympics
Anselmo Moreno vs David De La Mora, the whole bout on video
Democrats Abroad gather and plot
Homeless
An Interior-style birthday matanza
José Ponce's Panama scenes
Paving the Casco Viejo's streets: Are they doing it right?
Yippie Girl: an interview with Judy Gumbo
Don't squeeze the avocados
Judith Salazar de De León and the new ACHIMPA board
Things that people here should know about US immigration law



Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine



© 2012 by Eric Jackson
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