Mexico's "Crown Jewel" Toll Road Opens

baluarte bridge, durango, Mex 40-D

The famous Baluarte Bridge. Image courtesy of

The headline title is amped-up for a good reason – the new Mex 40-D certainly could be a contender as “The Eighth Wonder Of The World.” Carving and spanning it’s way through mountains and across deep gorges of the southern Copper Canyon, the highway is considered a marvel by engineers all over the globe. More than a hundred tunnels and bridges were necessary in its construction and the Baluarte Bridge roadway is suspended more than a quarter-mile above the canyon floor.

Bringing all this down to earth level means “The Devil’s Backbone”  or the old Mex 40 is a thing of the past for a majority of travelers. The old highway has hair-raising steep grades and knuckle whitening hairpin curves. If that weren’t taxing enough, laden diesel semi-trucks crawled up the grade at 10 miles per hour and then whistled  down, emitting a nauseating stench of overheated brakes. The old Mex40 is not for the faint of heart.

Five casetas de cobro, or toll booths, with restroom facilities are spaced along the length of the new toll road. The sum total of tolls one-way for an automobile, amounts to 501 pesos as of July 2014. It’s best to fuel up in Durango or Mazatlán even though the road is slated to have several Pemex gasolineras. As with all Mexican toll roads, vehicles with more than four tires and cars towing trailers are going to pay considerably more for tolls. For instance, the toll for a 3-axle motorhome is almost 1,300 pesos.

The toll fee on this cuota becomes more than bearablehe in light of the stupendous views and jaw dropping “gawkability” of more bridges and tunnels than you can shake two sticks at. Shaving four hours of travel-time off the trip also helps. Improved access may help Mazatlan’s sluggish overland tourist economy.

Additional important news: Mexico’s SCT, the transportation secretary, recently remarked “completing the coast high-speed highway system to Zihuatanejo is top prority.” One hand on the steering wheel along Michoacan’s coast? A bypass around Puerto Vallárta? Four lanes northward to Tepic?  It’s hard to imagine, yes. But the completion of Mex 40D gives credence to the secretery’s comment. An expressway construction connecting Nogales to Zihuatanejo will be years in the making but for the first time I actually I believe it’s gonna happen. After all, highway bypasses circling Mazatlán and Baja California’s Ensenada are nearing completion. Tenacatita Exit 5 Km? Barra de Navidád, use right lane? Whooee!

2 Responses to “Mexico's "Crown Jewel" Toll Road Opens”

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  1. Mike Huckaby says:

    Great news, El Codo. I always wondered why the layout of the roads was designed by cows, meandering up and down hill and dale. Mexico needs the equivalent of the Europebrucke.

  2. Dan Brewster says:

    I drove this marvelous engineering wonder in February and it truly is not to be missed if you like bridges, tunnels, steep canyon views, and minimal traffic. Stairway to Heaven.