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Mexico: Roads
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Transportation and Communications > Roads


Mexico has one of the most extensive highway networks in Latin America, linking nearly all areas of the national territory. In 1994 Mexico had 242,000 kilometers of roads, of which 85,000 kilometers were paved (including more than 3,100 kilometers of expressways), 40,000 kilometers were gravel or cobblestone, 62,000 kilometers were improved earth, and 55,000 kilometers were unimproved dirt roads. The highway system includes federal roads, state roads (for which the federal government provides 50 percent of construction costs), and local roads (for which the federal government contributes 30 percent of costs).

The most heavily traveled highway routes form a triangle linking Mexico City with the large population and industrial centers of Guadalajara and Monterrey, as well as with the main port city of Veracruz. The Inter-American Highway begins at the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo and runs through Monterrey and Mexico City, where it turns southeastward toward Oaxaca and then directly eastward into Chiapas and northwestern Guatemala. Mexico has three major federal highways: the Baja California Dorsal Highway, which runs the length of the peninsula from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas; the Trans-Mexico Highway, which roughly parallels the United States border between Tijuana on the Pacific coast and Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico; and the Pacific Coast Highway, which extends from Tijuana to Tapachula on the Guatemalan border.

Although extensive, much of Mexico's public highway system is in poor condition as a result of insufficient investment in road maintenance and an overreliance on heavy trucks to haul overland cargo. According to the World Bank, in 1994, 61 percent of Mexican public roads were in poor condition, 29 percent were in fair condition, and only 10 percent were in good condition. In the early 1990s, the Salinas government took steps to reduce the strain on the public highway system by granting concessions to the private sector to build 6,600 kilometers of toll roads by 1994. The newly built toll roads are in better condition than the public highways, but tolls, which were driven up as a result of construction cost overruns, have been too expensive to divert a significant share of commercial traffic from the public roads.

In 1992 total vehicle traffic in Mexico included 7.5 million automobiles, 3.9 million trucks, and more than 106,000 buses. In 1995 there were 12.1 million registered vehicles in Mexico. Intercity bus service is extensive, with bus service generally considered fair to good on most intercity routes. Despite the availability of mass transit, the proliferation of buses and automobiles in greater Mexico City has far outpaced the capital's road building and highway expansion capabilities, causing chronic urban traffic congestion and exacerbating Mexico City's legendary smog.

Data as of June 1996

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Mexico Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 124 of 213


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