Chile Road Network

By | November 19, 2022

The Autopista del Maipo near Angostura, south of Santiago.

As the wealthiest country in South America, Chile also has a modern road network. According to wholevehicles, the road network covers 82,134 kilometers, of which 20,319 kilometers is paved with asphalt or concrete. In northern Chile, 12,843 kilometers of road are paved with the mineral Bischofita, a magnesium salt used to pave roads. 32,837 kilometers of road consists of gravel and 16,134 kilometers of sand. Chile has more than 2,000 kilometers of autopista, most of which is formed by the Ruta 5 in the central zone, from La Serena via Santiago to Puerto Montt. Most of the other autopistas are also in the central zone, especially between the Ruta 5 and the coast and an urban highway network of about 200 kilometers in Santiago. The Chilean autopistas are among the most modern on the continent.

Although about half of the Chilean road network is unpaved, almost all through roads are asphalted and most larger villages can be reached via paved roads. Most of the dirt roads are in the Atacama Desert, where it is mostly gravel, as well as in the Zona Austral, the southernmost zone where the Ruta 7 is only partially paved. In the hills of the western half of the Zona Central is a dense network of dirt roads that are unpaved. However, the through roads here are paved.

As a tourist route, the Carretera Austral is gaining popularity, the route from Puerto Montt south through the Patagonian mountain landscape. This route, part of Ruta 7, is largely unpaved and is interrupted in a number of places by water. The area’s fjords can only be crossed using ferries. The route was not completed until the 1990s and ends at the village of Villa O’Higgins.

More generally, a distinction can be made between national routes (Rutas Nacionales) and regional routes (Rutas Regionales). The region is the administrative layer directly below the national government, but above the provinces.

Autopistas

The autopistas in Chile are among the most modern in Latin America, are well maintained and have optimal alignment, unlike in some other Latin American countries. A distinction is made between the “Autopistas Urbanas” in urban regions (especially Santiago) and the “Autopistas Interurbanas”, which are mainly part of the Ruta 5. The Ruta 5 is constructed as a motorway between La Serena and Puerto Montt over a distance of 1,495 kilometers. The highway has various names and various concession holders.

Most autopistas are located in the central part of Chile. In addition to the approximately 200 kilometers of urban autopista in and around Santiago, there are also east-west connections in this region, from Santiago to Valparaíso, from San Felipe to Valparaíso and from Santiago to San Antonio. Further south there is also an autopista from Chillán to Concepción. The Ruta 5 near Puerto Montt is the southernmost autopista in South America.

The autopistas in Chile were built later than in many other Latin American countries, largely from the 1990s. However, this has the advantage that the autopistas have fewer substandard elements. Many urban autopistas have toll-free frontage roads.

Rutas nacionales

Chile’s main road network is formed by rutas nacionales. Almost all rutas nacionales are asphalted and connect all larger cities. The rutas nacionales may have been executed as autopista, this is especially the case with the Ruta 5 in central Chile, as well as some branches of Ruta 5 in this region.

Rutas nacionales are divided into three classes;

  • Rutas de tipo longitudinal: the north-south routes. Especially the Ruta 5, plus the Ruta 1, 7 and 9.
  • Rutas de tipo nacional: the other rutas nacionales.
  • Rutas de tipo internacional: rutas nacionales leading to border crossings
Autopistas and rutas nacionales in Chile
Autopista Rutas del Desierto

Autopista del Elqui • Autopista del Aconcagua • Autopista Central • Autopista del Maipo • Autopista Talca-Chillán • Autopista del Bosque • Autopista de la Araucanía • Autopista de los Ríos • Autopista de los Lagos

: Autopista Los Libertadores •: Autopista Los Andes •: Autopista Troncal Sur •: Autopista del Pacífico •: Autopista del Sol •: Autopista del Itata

Santiago: Costanera Norte • Autopista Nororiente • Vespucio Norte • Vespucio Oriente • Vespucio Sur • Acceso Sur • Orbital Sur de Santiago

Other Autopista Valles del Biobío

Rutas regionals

Chile’s secondary road network is made up of the rutas regioes, which have regional importance but are under national management. The rutas regionals are numbered per region with an alphanumeric number, with the prefix A to Y. The numbers of rutas regionals are sometimes cross-border, they are then given a different prefix. A large part of the rutas regios are unpaved roads, both dirt roads and gravel roads. The gravel roads are mainly in the mountains, the dirt roads more in the lower parts.

The rutas regionals are divided into two classes;

  • Ruta regional primaria: the primary routes numbered in the series 10 to 99. West of Ruta 5 they have an even number, east of Ruta 5 an odd number.
  • Ruta regional secundaria: the secondary routes numbered in the series 100 to 999. The numbering increases from north to south in a national system, but the prefix is ​​per region.

Road management

The roads are governed by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas (MOP, Ministry of Public Works), the executive agency for road management is the Dirección de Vialidad. The ministry has its origins in a merger of five ministries in 1887 to form the Ministerio de Industria y Obras Públicas. In 1925 the Departamento de Caminos was founded, which was given the task of road construction. The ministry was given its current name in 1974. In addition, the Ministerio de Transportes y Telecommunicaciones was also established, which, contrary to the name suggests, has no function in the development of road transport, other than public transport.

History

At the time of the Incas, the first “roads” were developed, the main ones were about 6 meters wide and suitable for pack mules to transport cargo. An important transport route was the Camino del Inca, which ran for 6,400 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador to central Chile. This route was also used by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. Postal routes were developed in Spanish colonial times. The main road at that time ran from Santiago to Valparaíso. The original route was 185 kilometers long, at the end of the 18th century an improved route of 140 kilometers was put into use, the so-called “Camino de O’Higgins”. This was a toll road.

After Chile’s independence, the road network became a government task. In 1887 the Ministerio de Industrias y Obras Públicas was founded. However, it was not until the 1920s that the road network started to improve, with the advent of the automobile. In 1920, the road network in Chile was established as being 35,000 kilometers long. In 1925 the Departamento de Caminos was founded, in that year also the Carretera Panamericanaintroduced as a north-south route through the Americas. In 1953, the Dirección de Vialidad was founded, with the task of developing the road network. Until the 1950s there were hardly any paved roads in Chile. In 1960 there were 63,000 kilometers of road in Chile, of which only 5,500 kilometers were paved. Work began in 1964 to asphalt the entire north-south route from Arica to Puerto Montt. In 1969 road numbering was introduced in Chile, including the famous Ruta 5 as a north-south route through most of Chile. The road network was further paved during the 1970s and 1980s, but unlike many other Latin American countries, there was no major upgrade. However, the first part of the Autopista del Pacífico between Santiago and Valparaíso opened in 1971, but for a long time this was also the only improved stretch of road in Chile. Elsewhere in South America, motorways and double-lane roads were already built from the 1950s, this was virtually not the case in Chile, only in the 1990s did the construction of motorways begin.

The Chilean highway network is relatively young, and built in a short time, a large part of the highways were opened between 1999 and 2005, as toll roads under concession. The first highway was the Ruta 5 between Santiago and Talca, which was completed on September 12, 1999. Between 2004 and 2006, 210 kilometers of highway were built in the capital Santiago, and are considered one of the most modern in the world. The Costanera Norte, in particular, is a technological feat with the highway running under the bottom of the river in Santiago for almost 4 kilometers. The highways outside Santiago all have 2×2 lanes. Few new highway projects have been started after 2006.

Toll roads

Electronic toll collection in Chile.

The toll booth of the Ruta 68 on the west side of Santiago.

Most autopistas in Chile are toll roads under concession. The toll in the Santiago region is fully electronic with electronic toll collection. The Autopista Central in Santiago was the first highway in Latin America with fully electronic toll collection. Other toll roads in Chile are tolled with traditional toll stations. Electronic toll collection is offered here, with a TAG.

Border crossings

Despite its very long borders, Chile has relatively few border crossings, even fewer of which are part of paved roads. Since the Andes make up most of the country’s borders, Chile has numerous very high-altitude border crossings, some of which are more than 4,000 meters above sea level. South of Santiago, the border crossings are lower but have an increasing secondary importance due to the lack of paved roads and larger towns connecting them. In southern Chile, the density of border crossings is higher, but the majority of these are very secondary connections via unpaved roads.

The list below shows all border crossings from north to south.

Border crossing Height Country away Remark
Paso Concordia 74 m Peru Arica – Tacna, main border crossing with Peru
Paso Visciri 4095 m Bolivia A-22 Visviri – Charaña, secondary route
Paso Chungará-Tambo Quemado 4680 m Bolivia Arica – Oruro / La Paz, main border crossing with Bolivia
Paso Colchane-Pisiga 3695 m Bolivia Huara – Oruro
Paso Apacheta de Irpa o Cancosa 4010 m Bolivia A-557 unpaved
Paso Abra Oriente de Napa 3785 m Bolivia A-663 unpaved
Paso Salar de Ollague 3695 m Bolivia Calama – Uyunic
Paso Portezuelo del Cajon 4480 m Bolivia B-243 unpaved
Paso Jama 4200 m Argentina Calama – Susques / Jujuy
Paso Sico 4090 m Argentina San Pedro de Atacama – San Antonio de los Cobres
Paso Socompa 3875 m Argentina B-55 unpaved
Paso de San Francisco 4745 m Argentina Copiapo – Tinogasta
Paso Pircas Negras 4164 m Argentina C-33 unpaved
Paso Pasco Lama 5100 m Argentina C-501 unpaved
Paso Agua Negra 4780 m Argentina La Serena – San Jose de Jachal / San Juan
Tunel Cristo Redentor 3200 m Argentina Los Andes – Uspallata / Mendoza, main border crossing with Argentina
Paso Vergara 2505 m Argentina J-55 unpaved
Paso Pehuende 2553 m Argentina Talca – Malargue
Paso Picachen 2060 m Argentina Q-45 unpaved
Paso Copahue 2015 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Pino Hachado 1885 m Argentina Temuco – Las Lajas / Zapala
Paso Icalma 1300 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso de Reigolil 1120 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Mamuil Malal 1210 m Argentina Temuco – Junin de los Andes
Paso Huahum 635 m Argentina unpaved
Paso Cardenal Antonio Samore 1305 m Argentina Osorno – San Carlos de Bariloche
Paso Perez Rosales 1020 m Argentina unpaved
Paso Vuriloche 1390 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Rio Manso 480 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Rio Puelo 220 m Argentina ? Border crossing via ferry service
Paso Futaleufú 335 m Argentina unpaved
Paso Rio Encuentro 425 m Argentina Palena – Corcovado
Paso Rio Frias-Appeleg 925 m Argentina X-25 unpaved
Paso Pampa Alta 865 m Argentina X-445 unpaved
Paso Coyhaique 795 m Argentina Coyhaique – Río Mayo (unpaved)
Paso Ingeniero Ibanez-Pallavinci 327 m Argentina X-65 unpaved
Paso Rio Jeinemenic 255 m Argentina Chile Chico – Perito Moreno
Paso Roballos 715 m Argentina X-83 unpaved
Paso Rio Mayer, Ribera Norte 450 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Rio Mosco 270 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Rio Don Guillermo 260 m Argentina unpaved
Paso Dorotea 605 m Argentina Puerto Natales – Rio Gallegos
Paso Laurita – Casas Viejas 240 m Argentina ? unpaved
Paso Integracion Austral 164 m Argentina Punta Arenas – Rio Gallegos
Paso San Sebastian 10 m Argentina unpaved
Paso Rio Bellavista 111 m Argentina Y-769 unpaved, southernmost road border crossing from Chile

Signage

Signage and signage in Chile is more focused on the European style of signage than in other South American countries. The signage in the country has many similarities with that of Spain. For example, exceptionally for the American continent, a color distinction is made between motorways and non-motorways. The latter are signposted on green signs with white letters; motorways are signposted with blue signs with white letters. There is exit numbering on some motorways. A system of exit numbering by distance is used.

The road numbers in Chile have a road number shield very reminiscent of that of the US Highways. The road number shield is green with white letters, except if the road in question is a motorway, then the road number shield is blue with white letters. In the top of the shield is the region in which you are located, with the number without a prefix below it. The road number does not always appear on the direction signs. Separate mounting boards are usually used.

Road numbering

A road number of a ruta nacional which is an autopista.

National road numbering

Chile’s national road network consists of rutas nacionales. They do not have a signposted prefix, but in written language “CH” is sometimes added to the number, analogous to the regional roads, which have an alphanumeric road number. The current road numbering was introduced in 1969.

The rutas nacionales are divided into longitudinals with a 1-digit odd number, the regular rutas nacionales, which have a two- or three-digit number, and the rutas internacionales, which also have a two- or three-digit number, but the suffix “CH” to get. The ruta 5 forms the main route from north to south through Chile, almost all other roads connect to it. The ruta 1, ruta 7 and ruta 9 form shorter north-south routes in Chile.

The other rutas nacionales have a numbering that increases from north to south. This also applies to the rutas internacionales, these are distinguished from the regular rutas nacionales because they run up to a border crossing, but are numbered in the same system. The transition from two to three digit numbers is just south of Santiago. So a three-digit number is just as important as a two-digit number. The road numbering runs from 1 to 259.

The road number plates of a ruta nacional are normally green, but turn blue if it is an autopista. In addition, the number of the region in which you are located is indicated in the road number shield. Some road numbers only run in one region, but several routes cross regions, especially the north-south routes.

Regions of Chile

No. Region Capital city
XV Arica y Parinacota arica
I Tarapacá Iquique
II Antofagasta Antofagasta
III Atacama Copiapo
IV Coquimbo La Serena
V Valparaiso Valparaiso
RM Region Metropolitana de Santiago Santiago
VI Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins Rancagua
VII Maule Talca
VIII Biobio Concepcion
IX Los Rios Valdivia
X Los Lagos Puerto Montt
XI Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo Coyhaique
XII Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena Punta Arenas
XVI uble Chillán

Regional road numbering

The regions have their own road numbering, also called the “caminos regios”. This road numbering was adopted at the same time as the national numbering in 1969. The road numbers are alphanumeric, with a letter as prefix and a one, two or three digit number. The letters run from north to south. The letters are established according to the regions that existed in 1969. In the 1980s, a number of regions were merged and renamed so that current regions can have multiple letters in their road numbers.

No. Region (1969) Region (contemporary)
a Tarapacá Tarapacá
B Antofagasta Antofagasta
C Atacama Atacama
d Coquimbo Coquimbo
E aconcagua Valparaiso
f Valparaiso Valparaiso
G Santiago Region Metropolitana de Santiago
Huh O’Higgins Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins
I Colchagua Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins
J Curico Maule
k Talca Maule
M Maule Maule
N uble Biobio
O Concepcion Biobio
P Arauco Biobio
Q Biobio Biobio
R Malleco Araucania
s Cautin Araucania
T Valdivia Los Lagos
YOU Osorno Los Lagos
V Llanquihue Los Lagos
W Chiloe Los Lagos
X Aysen Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo
Y Magallanes Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena

Chile Road Network