Panama New Subway is Under Construction

Credit: Presidency of the Republic of Panama

When presidential candidate Ricardo Martinelli said he would build a brand new subway in Panama, everybody thought it was an April Fools’ prank.  One more political promise to rake in more votes, but would never be accomplished.  Since the beginning of the republic we have seen these vaporware political promises that vanish like magicians’ white rabbits into thin air.

However this time, the president of “El Cambio” is making things happen.  All over the city there are construction workers hard at working on the subway which is expected to open sometime in 2014.

The building of a subway is a mega-project which challenges the expansion of the Panama Canal in complexity and cost.  Construction started on February 14, 2011, coinciding with Saint Valentine’s Day.  The cost of the complex project is approximately $1.6 billion and will open to riders in 2014.

The subway—the first in Central America—is being built by an international consortium that includes French Alston, Brazilian Norberto Odebreth and Spanish Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas.

Alstom will design and build the trains and electromechanical systems for the metro.  The system is expected to open with an initial capacity of 15,000 passengers an hour in each direction with more being added until a maximum capacity of 40,000 passengers is reached.

When the project ends, trains will travel the 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) line in 23 minutes with stops at 13 stations, some above ground and other below.  There will be four subway lines, one of them over the Panama Canal.  Ricardo Martinelli will only build the first line.  The rest will be completed by the next administrations.

Below are some historic pictures of the initial construction of this grand public works.

Historic picture of the construction of the first line of the Panama subway in the neighborhood of Vista Hermosa, Panama City, Panama. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of the construction of Panama metro with pedestrian instructions to avoid accidents. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of a safety net separating the construction site from pedestrian traffic. The sign reads, "We apologize for the inconvenience. We are building the Metro of Panama." Photo ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of the construction of the Metro of Panama in the neighborhood of Vista Hermosa in Panama City, Panama. I consider these pictures to be historic as we look back from the future. Photo ©Omar Upegui R.

In an effort to save some pictures for tomorrow, I will temporarily stop here.  If you’re interested in looking into the future, we encourage you to return tomorrow for more pictures of the Panama Subway.  Good Day.

7 thoughts on “Panama New Subway is Under Construction”

  1. I don’t know, Omar, but there’s something about going underground in a country where there are earthquakes that doesn’t appeal to me very much. I mean, with a hurricane you know when it’s coming but earthquakes sort of just HAPPEN. We’ve had a few small quakes around here the past couple of months and while I seem to have slept through most of them there was one a couple of weeks ago that I definitely felt. First time ever. But I’ve been through quite a few hurricanes in my day.

  2. Hi Richard:

    I know what you mean, but we don’t have much earthquakes in Panama City. That’s why you see ruins, like the ones in Panama Viejo, that have been there for centuries.

    I don’t want to go upstairs before my time, if you know what I mean. 🙂



  3. You know that old saying, “When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.” Well, I hate the idea of being on a plane when it’s someone else’s time to go and they take me with them.

  4. Hi Omar, I agree about the earthquakes, the thing I would worry about is during the rainy season and the metro becoming a huge aqueduct if the drainage isn’t done right.

    I also think about the cave in of the approach to the new bridge after heavy rains and numerous other public works projects that have fallen apart. I hope the construction will be top notch on this project. It needs to last at least as long as the canal has.
    jim and nena
    fort worth, tx

    1. Hi Jim and Nena:

      That’s the idea, to have top notch contractors to do the job. As far as I know, all three companies involved have ample experience in building metros in other countries.

      The cave in at the Centennial Bridge was a lousy job made during the Mireya Moscoso administration. She wanted to inaugurate the bridge before her administration was over and didn’t take the necessary precautions to build a safe bridge and highway system. Sure enough, when heavy rainfall fell last year, the whole highway collapsed. We expect this doesn’t happen again. (Fingers crossed).

      Take Care,


  5. Built right by quality contractors I wouldn’t worry too much. There are plenty of examples of large and very safe underground transit systems in places where earthquakes are more severe than the tremors we experience in Panama. San Francisco, California for one.

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