Guatemala Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

Due to decades of internal conflict, a well-maintained road network never got off the ground in Guatemala. Most of the roads are winding mountain roads, although there are some double-lane roads around Guatemala City. Spectacular is the dual carriageway from Guatemala City to Escuintla, which descends 500 meters over a short distance and has winding lanes. There is also a dual carriageway from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango, and the CA9 has been widened to 2×2 lanes between Guatemala City and Sanarate. Most traffic takes place in and around the capital Guatemala City. There is no real highway network in the city, but there are some highway-like roads with grade separated intersections. The Anillo Periphericocomes closest to an autopista, and is Guatemala’s only road that is completely grade separated. One of the problems is the mountainous character of the city, which has prevented a ring road from getting off the ground. All flat parts of the urban area are densely built-up. Some main axes have been extended to a high standard with lane separations and incidental grade-separated intersections. Around the center is a grid pattern.

According to wholevehicles, outside the Guatemala City region, the number of roads is limited, there are a number of transit routes to neighboring countries, such as to the Mexican state of Chiapas, to San Salvador in the country of El Salvador and two routes to Honduras. In the northern half of Guatemala there is hardly any road network. There is only one border crossing with Belize. In the northern department of Petén, which occupies a third of the land area, there is only one road of the highest road class, and not a single ruta nacional. There are no main east-west roads along the flat southern coastal strip, although some roads from inland reach the coastal strip, but there are no larger cities along the Pacific coast.

The roads are often in poor condition, and many vehicles on the road are unsafe, especially trucks and buses, often old American models. In 2012, the national road network (red vial nacional) covered 8,696 kilometers, of which 6,337 kilometers were asphalted and 2,359 kilometers were unpaved.

Rutas nacionales in Guatemala
CA1 • CA2 • CA8 • CA9 • CA10 • CA11 • CA12 • CA13 • CA14RN1 • RN2 • RN5 • RN7 • RN8 • RN9 • RN10 • RN11 • RN12 • RN13 • RN14 • RN15 • RN16 • RN17 • RN18 • RN19 • RN20 • RN23 • FTN

History

The Guatemalan civil war between 1960 and 1996 deteriorated the road network to such an extent that it was barely able to support economic activity in the country. In 1994 the government therefore decided to upgrade the road network and establish a national road network (red vial nacional). The development of these roads was given priority, which is why the road fund (fondo vial) was established in 1996. As an executive agency, the Unidad Ejecutora de Conservación Vial (COVIAL) was established in 1997. The road network has slowly improved since then, but is still underdeveloped compared to neighboring Mexico and El Salvador. In 2018, following many Latin American countries, the first PPPawarded project to upgrade the road between Escuintla and Puerto Quetzal to autopista with tolls.

Road numbering

Rutas centroamericanas

There are three road number layers in Guatemala, the highest network being the rutas centroamericanas with the prefix “CA”, an integrated system with the neighboring countries south of Guatemala. It doesn’t extend into Mexico. The CA-1 is part of the Interamericana, the transit route from El Salvador via Guatemala City to the Mexican border. The CA-2 runs through the south of the country, way inland from the coast. The CA-9 forms a route between Guatemala City and Puerto Barrios on the Caribbean coast. The CA-10 and CA-12 are short routes in eastern Guatemala.

Rutas nacionales

The national road network consists of one and two digit numbers, which are given an N, S, E, W suffix if they are split into two routes, which is common, for example the 9N and 9S. Most numbers have one digit, roads with a regional function have two digits. The abbreviation is RN. The numbering runs from 1 to 20, plus the RN23. The Franja Transversal del Norte (FTN) is unnumbered, but is often considered a ruta nacional due to its great length and through importance to the region in question.

Rutas departmentales

There are also departmental roads. These are numbered per department, the road number is given a prefix in administrative documents, the abbreviation of the department. For example, the SRO-17 is the ruta departmental 17 of the department of Santa Rosa. The Guatemalan departments are usually small, so there are not many numbered rutas departmentales per department. Often only a limited part of these rutas departmentales is asphalted.

Signage

The signage in Guatemala is similar to what is found elsewhere in Central America, with green signposts with white capital letters. The signage has not been developed too far. Blunt arrows are characteristic of Central American signage, as well as in Guatemala. Road numbers are usually indicated.

Guatemala Road Network