Planned Guadalhorce motorway extension, 14 years on and still no date for work to begin

Planned Guadalhorce motorway extension, 14 years on and still no date for work to begin

The A-357 has the highest number of accidents in the province and the lack of a wider, safer inland road is strangling economic development



Friday, 10 February 2023, 09:56

Staff have seen it all at the BP filling station where the existing motorway section of the A-357 ends at Casapalma in Cártama municipality. The memory of the most recent accident, when three people were killed in a serious collision at the Casarabonela junction on Christmas Day, is still very vivid. Most of this very busy road through the Guadalhorce valley has only one lane in each direction because plans to widen more of it have never been carried out.

"Nothing gets done here," one person said. "We have been waiting so many years for the road to be widened that we don't believe it will ever happen. Some people's land was compulsorily purchased over ten years ago, but nothing has happened since."

The situation dates back to the end of the last decade, and no government since has given it the priority it deserves. The dual carriageway is not just needed because there are so many accidents on this road, but also because the present situation is restricting the economic development of villages in the area, which is home to important tourist attractions such as the Caminito del Rey and the Sierra de las Nieves National Park.

The A-357 is 70km long, of which 30 are motorway. It is used by 25,000 vehicles a day and serves more than 150,000 residents of the Guadalhorce valley and the Sierra.

The last time any works were announced was December 2009, when the Junta de Andalucía said it was spending nearly 28 million euros on building the motorway stretch between Casapalma and Cerralba. The contract was awarded to constructors Dragados-Otero, with a completion period of 30 months to turn these four kilometres into a motorway.

The route was meant to start at the Casapalma intersection, which had already been built. From there, the motorway would run parallel to the Guadalhorce river along its right bank as far as the Cerralba exit, which drivers would also take to get to Pizarra.

The following stretch (the most recent one planned) was to be from Cerralba to Zalea. However, the works have never begun and 14 years have now passed.

Most dangerous in Malaga

At that time, the reason the dual carriageway was needed was to improve the connection between the Guadalhorce valley and Malaga city and the Costa del Sol, and as an alternative route between Malaga and the A-92 via Campillos. Since then, not only has there been considerable growth in the built-up area around there, but new companies have been created in the agrifood sector and tourist attractions have increased, so the amount of traffic on this road has multiplied.


"It is a difficult area with high density of traffic, and in addition there are the accidents. There are so many of those"

Francisco Martínez

Mayor of Álora

When it comes to road safety, the A-357 is a definite black spot in the province. Apart from the terrible accident on 25 December, a report for last year clearly marks it as the most dangerous road in Malaga.

In 2022 most of the serious accidents (24 of the 32) occurred on conventional roads (those with one lane in each direction) and only eight on dual carriageways and motorways. Three of last year's accidents were on the single-lane section of the A-357, which is why it is considered so urgent for the improvements to be carried out.

"If a road only has one lane in each direction there are more accidents and more fatalities. Drivers need to be extremely careful when they are using this type of road," the provincial head of the Traffic Department, Aída Vilaret, told SUR.

Pedro Fernández Miguel, a businessman from Carratraca, has been fighting for this road to be improved for years. He founded a group to campaign for the motorway in 1987. "The project was suspended during the economic crisis in 2008, and then the new government stopped it because the EU were demanding new safety parameters," he said.

'Strangling' the local economy

Ever since then residents in the area have been waiting for the stretch of motorway to be built, but for them the worst aspect is the number of lives that have been lost.

"It is the worst stretch of road in Andalucía for accidents. Forty people have been killed on the stretch between Zalea and Ardales," Fernández said. He is calling for a temporary slow lane to be created as an immediate safety measure, because so many heavy lorries now use the road.

Shorter journeys

"Extending the motorway would make Malaga much more accessible: a lot of people from here have to travel to the city every day"

Juan Alberto Naranjo

Mayor of Ardales

When the widened road is finally built there will be very important economic benefits.

"The Antequera dry port is closer to Malaga via Campillos and Carratraca, where we already have a lot of problems with lorries; and if the Expo 27 takes place in Malaga there will have to be a third lane on the existing Guadalhorce motorway," Fernández said.

He also wants the fast road to be extended at least as far as the northern entrance to Álora, which would only be five kilometres more than where it is due to end at present.

Swedish entrepreneur Pelle Lundborg goes to Carratraca every day and knows at first-hand the problems on the A-357.

"There is so much traffic, and people don't keep their distance or use their indicators. There are a great many serious accidents and people are killed every year. It cannot go on like this," he said.

  • 150,000 people live in the Guadalhorce area and the Sierra de las Nieves

  • 25,000 vehicles use this road every day and the volume of traffic causes problems for drivers

As a start, he said, better road signs are needed and a radar installed to stop people speeding; but the dual carriageway needs to be created as a matter of urgency. "A lot of people live in the villages in this area and work in Malaga," he said. It will also make it easier to reach Ronda and will benefit the growing number of companies in the region.

Antonio Martín, who runs Triángulo Activo and Hacienda Los Conejitos in Álora, said the dual carriageway would benefit the whole region.

"It would bring local businesses closer to the city and make the Guadalhorce valley more accessible," he says. And he also agrees that it needs to be treated as a priority.

Expand the metropolitan area

For the mayors of villages in this region, the road extension would help to prevent depopulation because the area would become an alternative to live more cheaply compared with the city.

The village, which would benefit most from the stretch of motorway extension as far as Zalea is Pizarra. The mayor, Félix Lozano, has said it would help the municipality to develop, and different investors and constructors have already expressed an interest.


"We have been calling for this project for a long time, because it would bring new investors to the village. Businesses and constructors are interested in coming here"

Félix Lozano

Mayor of Pizarra

"We are close to Malaga city, the Sierra de las Nieves and the inland region. Businesses are interested in this area and demand would increase if we had a dual carriageway road," he said.

It is also key to the economic, work and social development of local villages. For example, Pizarra wants to build a huge industrial estate near Zalea, two million square metres in size, which would generate a great many jobs.

Residents of Álora would also have a shorter journey time to Malaga, explained the mayor, Francisco Martínez.

"This project is very important and all the mayors in this area have been calling for it to be carried out. And we will continue to do that, because there is no sign that they are going to build the motorway any time soon," he said.

Ardales would also benefit from better road links and although it is further away from Malaga than other villages in the area, it would receive more visitors if the journey time could be reduced. "It would make us easier to reach, so more tourists would come," said the mayor, Juan Alberto Naranjo.

But that is not all. Widening the road would also directly benefit villages in the Sierra de las Nieves, such as Alozaina, Tolox, Casarabonela and Yunquera, the gateway to the National Park of the same name. This area is also reached along the A-357, so a faster road would encourage many more visitors to make the journey.

Work on the motorway extension will not start until at least next year

There is bad news for those who have already been waiting 14 years for the Guadalhorce road to be widened: the works will not begin until at least early 2024. At present, the Junta's Ministry of Public Works expects to award the contract for updating the costs of the project and the plans for the next two phases (Casapalma-Cerralba and Cerralba-Zalea) during the first six months of the present year. That should be completed before the end of the year, according to information given by the deputy minister, Mario Muñoz-Atanet, to the mayor of Pizarra, Félix Lozano, at a recent meeting. In the meantime, the Ministry is working on an informative study regarding the future Malaga-Ronda-Campillos motorway. Once this document has been drawn up, it will be made available for the public to see and the environmental studies will begin. Pizarra council has also said that the regional Ministry of Public Works appeared to have responded positively to its plans for a new access into the village, and both institutions have agreed to hold periodic meetings to follow-up on the situation. The next meeting, the council said, is due to take place in April.




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