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Transportation in Bolivia


Transportation in Bolivia has been seriously impeded both by the geographic configuration of the country and by the concentration of population and mineral wealth in the mountain regions. Railroads and highways twist along the Andean Range, and are often blocked by mudslides during the rainy season. The shortage of transportation facilities is one of the most serious barriers to economic development. Railroads are almost entirely single-track metre gauge, totalling 3,504 km in 2006. The railway system, National Railway Co, is in two distinct parts separated by the eastern Andes. All of the trackage was government owned and operated until privatised in 1996. A major portion of the railway system, the Andina, services the Altiplano, the western mountainous region, providing vital international connections with Pacific coast ports. The remaining track, the Oriental, connects the eastern city of Santa Cruz with Brazil and Argentina. An important route to Puerto Suárez eventually reaches the Brazilian port of Santos, while the line to Argentina via Villazón continues on to Buenos Aires. Two smaller lines (157 km) are run by the Mining Corp. of Bolivia and by the Pulacayo mining enterprise.

In 2004, of a total of 62,479 km of roads, only about 3,749 km were paved. The Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway, completed in 1963, was a major achievement in connecting lowland and highland Bolivia. In 2000, there were 120,484 motor vehicles, of which 35,788 were passenger cars, and 84,706 were commercial vehicles.

Airlines are particularly important in view of Bolivia's topography and the underdevelopment of other means of transportation. In 2007, there were an estimated 1,061 airports, only 16 of which had paved runways. The hub of air traffic is El Alto airport near La Paz, the world's highest commercial airport; the other international airport is at Santa Cruz. Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB), with 50% government capital, services most of the country. In 2001, 1,560,300 passengers were carried on scheduled international and domestic flights. Military Air Transport, operated by the air force, provides some civilian freight and passenger service, and numerous air taxi companies are also in service.

Little use has been made of Bolivia's 10,000 km of commercially navigable waterways. The merchant marine has 25 vessels (1,000 GRT or over), totalling 67,973 GRT, as of 2008. There are no regular riverboat services. Bolivia has free port privileges at Antofagasta and Arica (Chile), at Mollendo (Peru), and at Santos (Brazil).


1,061 (2007)

Airports - with paved runways
total: 16
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2007)

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