Tenders for Colombia’s ill-fated La Linea tunnel are scheduled to be invited for the fourth time next month.

The 8.6km long road tunnel is designed to link together the municipalities of Calarca and Cajamarca, in the country’s capital of Bogota. The bidding process was declared deserted in June 2002, for the third time after Invias (Colombia’s state highway authority) did not receive any bids.

France’s Bouygues, Spain’s Ferrovial, and local company Coltuneles had all pre-qualified, but declined to offer a bid because of a lack of safety guarantee, and financing problems. According to the contract, prospective bidders must identify and agree sources of finance for the entire scheme. However, the Colombian government will assume liability once a winning consortium is identified.

After the bidding process collapsed for a second time, at the end of 2001, the 14-year maintenance package was removed from the contract. The level of insurance guarantees were also reduced. Insurance is a sticky issue in Colombia, with many insurance companies avoiding construction projects there altogether. The La Linea tunnel is perceived as being both vulnerable to terrorist attack and expensive.

The design and build contract includes the construction of a parallel emergency tunnel, connected by cross-passages every 500m, and 4km of access roads. Construction should take about 60 months.

The project has a total investment cost of US$220M, and planners are currently hammering out bidding terms; deciding whether to award one or multiple construction contracts.