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Scarlett Martinez International Airport

Rio Hato,

Tunnels, portals and enclosures


Ministry of Public Works, Republic of Panama


CEMOSA Engineering and Control


MECO , Euroconcretos de Panama


Summer 2012

Technical Description:

  • Span: 54 ft (twin cells)
  • Rise: 14 ft
  • Length: 560 ft

In 2011, the Government of Panama made the decision to proceed with the rebuilding of the airport in Rio Hato, creating a new international airport for the beach and resort community.

Rio Hato’s existing airport infrastructure dates back to 1942, when the United States military built an airport there toward the end of World War II. Building a new airport anywhere else in Panama could cost an estimated $1 billion, but due to the existing airport infrastructure, the new Rio Hato International Airport project can be built for only $53.2 million. The award of the project was done through a public bidding process, and the project is supervised by the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The restoration work for the new airport project will include the rehabilitation of the runway, a new airport terminal and construction of a tunnel for the Carretera Panamericana Highway that currently crosses the runway.

The new International Airport in Rio Hato will bring benefits and opportunities for area residents. Currently, the only major airport in Panama is Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Having another international airport on Panama’s Pacific coast would make it easier for travelers to head straight to the beach, boosting tourism along the Pacific beaches where several resorts and condo developments are located. It will also allow Tocumen International Airport to accept more flights for business and connecting flights in an effort to secure Panama’s position as a hub for business and commercial activity in Central America.

When it came to the construction of the 560 feet tunnel, Constructora MECO chose to utilize a CON/SPAN bridge system, a product offered by Contech Engineered Solutions.

CON/SPAN is a precast, modular system utilized for bridges, culverts and tunnels. CON/SPAN’s innovative, economical design stands apart from any other system. Distinctive arched precast, combined with precast headwalls and wingwalls, allow for rapid construction.

Constructora MECO chose the CON/SPAN bridge system for the airport tunnel project due to its history of success with similar airport application projects in the United States. Over 7,000 CON/SPAN bridge systems have been installed since 1983.

In this case, the CON/SPAN bridge system is designed for 757 aircraft loading. The precaster was able to build and store the precast elements on-site, minimizing freight costs.

The CON/SPAN bridge system offers an economical solution that meets the technical needs of this important project, while also accommodating its tight schedule.


Technical Description:

  • Span: 54 ft (twin cells)
  • Rise: 14 ft
  • Length: 560 ft

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