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Economy, Transportation

United States railroads, Mexican Revolution, central plateau, highway system, little investment

Mexico’s rapid population growth since the 1950s has placed considerable pressure on its transportation infrastructure. Its topography has made transportation difficult in some regions, particularly between the western coastal plains and the central plateau. Mexico’s railroads were extremely important in the economic development of the country in the 19th century. The state-owned and operated system received little investment and was inadequately maintained after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), however, leading to an outdated railroad system that is now in need of significant improvement. In the mid-1990s the Zedillo administration decided to sell the nation’s major railroad lines to private firms and began soliciting bids from domestic and international investors. United States railroads, hoping to benefit from the large commerce between the two countries, expressed interest in linking themselves directly to Mexican lines.

The growth of Mexico’s trucking industry has put pressure on the government to improve the highway system. Most of Mexico’s major highways are still only two lanes wide. Under President Carlos Salinas (1988-1994), the government encouraged private contractors and investors to build toll roads. Although a number of these were constructed throughout Mexico, their costs were so high compared to the public system, especially during the economic crisis that began in 1994, that most are not economically viable.

Mexico has a well-developed airline system that serves domestic and international destinations through links to every major U.S. and European carrier. The country’s major airports are located in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Acapulco, and Tijuana.

Mexico’s long-standing urban transportation problems, especially in the Federal District, are gridlock and air pollution. Although there is a modern, efficient bus and subway system in the capital, cars remain the most popular form of transportation. The government has been forced to institute severe restrictions on automobile use in an attempt to reduce air pollution.

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