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Patterns of Economic Development

Transportation

Although a great variety of forms of transportation are in common use, the road and railroad networks are of primary importance because of the bulk and value of their freight and the number of passengers carried. Motor-vehicle traffic dominates in most parts of the continent. Railroads and coastal and river ships remain relatively more important in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile than elsewhere, but even in these countries the bus, truck, and automobile are the principal modes of transporting goods and passengers. Air transport has developed rapidly since the end of World War II, and an important network exists in South America. Railroads suffered from underdevelopment in the early 20th century, mainly because of the historic lack of settlement of the continent's interior; for instance, the railroad systems, which had matured by 1930, were largely used for commodity movement between immediate hinterlands and the port cities. National rail and highway networks are dense only in southeastern Brazil and in the Pampas of Argentina and, to a lesser extent, in the populous areas of Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador. The construction of roads has been most important since the 1950s. Venezuela and coastal Peru have a good system of surfaced roads; in Paraguay and Bolivia the road networks are not as good. The Andean countries have been extending roads into the interior for decades, and Brazil has spanned parts of the Amazon Basin with roads. The national road systems, like the airway systems, have begun to accelerate economic integration of distant interiors with the long-established industrial and commercial core areas of the various countries. In the mid-1990s many South American countries looked to private investors to improve their nations' road networks.

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