Like many Mexicans, when we drove to the coast this past weekend we took what is known as the cuota, or the toll road. This highway to the Acapulco region is a feat of engineering that spans deep ravines.
But it is not cheap to take. The total tolls came to 1,164 pesos or about $89.50.
Now, that’s a lot of toll for a roughly 450 mile roundtrip journey. But it is the way Mexico is. Instead of a free interstate highway system, there is an expansive toll road system operated via franchises from the government.
I’ve taken weekday trips where the toll roadways are nearly deserted. With such expensive tolls, it’s little wonder that many motorists avoid them.
One of the curiosities of the four-lane toll roads is that they almost always go parallel to older two-lane free highways, known as libres. Those are often jammed with trucks and go right through the middle of towns and cities. The toll roads often skirt the cities.
The toll roads have another benefit. They are probably safer, as this blog notes:
Are the cuotas safer than the libres? Probably. There is far less traffic. The highway is almost always in very good shape. It's fenced, so there are no farm animals wandering in your path. The controlled access makes them less attractive to banditos.
Believe it or not, the toll roads are not always faster than the jammed libres. When we came back yesterday, the end of a three-day weekend, the journey that might ordinarily be four and a half hours took seven hours. The toll road was jammed with well-off Mexicans escaping for the long weekend. At one point, look off the toll road near Cuernavaca, we saw traffic on the libre moving twice as fast.