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Brazilian roads

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President Washington Luis (1926-30) used to say that "to govern is to open roads". Brazilian governments always priorized roads over railways and waterways. Juscelino Kubitschek (President from 1956-1960), who conceived and built Brasilia, was another incentivator of roads; Kubitscheck was responsible for the instalation of the big car makers in Brazil (Volkswagen, Ford and GM came to Brazil during his government), and one of the points used to attract them was, of course, support to the construction of roads.
From January 1995 through September 2001, the federal government invested R$ 12.5 bn in transports, or 28% of the total investments of the period (source: The FHC Goverment, a Balance; several authors; ISBN 85-293-0076-9). No other sector had such a generous budget (in the same period, Defense had 17%, Health 15% and Education 9%). The Ministry of Transportation is one of the most disputed by the political parties which support the government.

This abundance of official funds is one of the reasons of the predominance of roads in Brazil. Few Brazilian companies domain the technology to design and build railroads, whereas a few very big companies have years of experience in the civil construction field (buildings, dams and plants, bridges, roads, etc). It is not a secret that some of these companies (such as
OAS, Odebrecht and others) are the largest contributors of the Brazilian election campaigns, both for Presidency and the Parliament; their lobby power is, not surprisingly, very strong (lobby is not normatized in Brazil, but it is not illegal either).
Besides satisfying the campaign funders, the building and maintenance of roads is a means for governments to inject cash in the Economy and generate, even if temporary, an increase in employment levels (not surprisingly, expenses grow in electoral years). Highways have the advantage over railways that the maintenaince funds can be more evenly distributed (Brazilian roads reach almost every city, whereas railways have always been concentrated), allowing more people to see the government working.

Most of the Brazilian roads (which include every street, avenue, highway, etc registered by the official transportation bodies) are under jurisdiction of the municipalities, and the vast majority of them are not paved. The table below depicts the situation in 1999.

Brazilian roads (km)
Roads 1995 1997 1999
Total 1,657,769 1,658,677 1,724,924
Non paved 1,509,647 1,507,841 1,560,677
Federal 16,096 15,004 14,844
States 105,909 105,911 107,912
Municipalities 1,376,370 1,376,370 1,429,296
Paved 148,122 150,836 164,247
Federal 51,370 53,435 55,905
States 68,180 68,180 75,973
Municipalities 14,869 14,869 16,993

Conditions of highways. A study conducted by the Confederation National of Transportation - CNT in 2001 classified the Brazilian highways with the following status: 2.9% are in Very Good conditions; 28.4% are in Good conditions; 66.3% are Defficient; 2.2% are Bad; 0.3% are Very Bad.
For updated information about the conditions of federal roads,
click this link then click on the maps to enlarge the regions of interest.

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