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The Central Highway of Cuba: A Pathway Connecting the Nation

The Central Highway of Cuba: A Pathway Connecting the Nation

The Central Highway of Cuba, known as the “Carretera Central” in Spanish, is a crucial transportation artery that spans the length of the country. This highway stretches across the island, connecting key cities and regions. This iconic highway serves as a lifeline, connecting cities, towns, and regions while facilitating trade, tourism, and everyday travel. In this article, we will explore the historical significance, design, economic impact, and importance of the Central Highway in Cuba’s transportation infrastructure.

Overview of the Central Highway

The Central Highway, also known as the “Carretera Central,” is the main east-west thoroughfare in Cuba. Spanning 1,139 kilometers (694 miles), it stretches across the entire island, passing through sixty cities and towns, including the six provincial capitals of that time. Additionally, 690 km (420 miles) of the highway cross through areas where there were no other means of communication. The highway serves as a vital transportation link for both commercial and passenger traffic.

History and Construction

The official inauguration of the construction of the Central Highway was held on March 2, 1927. It aimed to create a unified road network that would connect various regions and promote economic development. The project involved extensive labor, as well as engineering expertise to overcome geographical challenges, including mountainous terrains and river crossings. It was a massive undertaking, involving extensive earthwork, bridge construction, and road paving. The Central Highway was opened to traffic as soon as the sections were finished. The section from Havana to Guanajay was inaugurated on May 28, 1928, followed by the section between Havana and Matanzas on May 27, 1929, and the section to Santa Clara on May 25, 1930. The official inauguration took place on February 2, 1931.

Design and Engineering Features

The Central Highway is designed as a modern, well-paved road with multiple lanes and properly designed intersections. It features separate lanes for eastbound and westbound traffic, ensuring smooth and safe transportation. The highway is equipped with signage, lighting, and safety features, meeting international standards for road infrastructure.

The field studies and projects of the 330 km (201 miles) that had not been built and were put out to tender were awarded to the engineers Guastella, Tella, Ledón Uribe, Cosculluela, and Garmendía. The study commissions of the Roads and Bridges Bureau studied the remaining 218 km (133 miles) led by engineers Armando Puentes, Víctor Escarpenter, Adalberto Cabrera, and Alfredo López. All the reinforced concrete factory works were designed by the engineer Armando Macías López. In total, 1,482 culverts and drains, 230 pontoons and reinforced concrete bridges, and 20 structural steel bridges were projected and built. In the embankments that exceeded three meters in height, cable defenses were built to protect vehicles against possible falls outside said embankments, formed by reinforced concrete posts that supported two rows of steel cables.

Engineering Feats and Construction

The execution of the Central Highway was awarded to Compañía Cubana de Contratistas and the Warren Brothers Company on December 19, 1926. The technical staff of the Central Highway was led by first-class engineer Manuel A. Coroalles and composed of engineers Sotero E. Escarza Curbelo, Felipe Ponce de León Malpica, Armando Macías López, Emilio del Junco Andró, Francisco Gastón Rosell, Alejandro Barrientos Gross, and Rafael Sánchez Giquel. The Central Highway consists of a concrete base with a uniform thickness of 15 cm (5.90 inches) in the center, increased to 23 cm (9 inches) at the ends, and a 5 cm (1.97 inches) thick bituminous concrete wear surface between 15 cm (5.90 inches) wide concrete curb. Its width is 6 m (19 feet and 8 inches) in unpopulated areas and 8 m (26 feet and 3 inches) within cities and towns. The most modern design, construction, and quality control technologies of the time were used in its construction.

Connectivity and Economic Impact

The Central Highway is the longest paved highway designed without a single level crossing, communicating a geographical area that represents two thirds of the nation and extraordinarily improved the level and living conditions of the Cuban population. The Central Highway serves as a critical transportation link in Cuba, playing a pivotal role in the country’s economic development and social integration. It connects agricultural regions with urban centers, facilitating the transportation of goods and supporting the agricultural industry. Additionally, the highway provides access to essential services, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and employment opportunities for rural communities.

Scenic Beauty and Tourism

Apart from its functional significance, the Central Highway offers stunning views of Cuba’s diverse landscapes. Travelers can experience the beauty of rolling hills, lush forests, coastal vistas, and rural communities along the route. The highway’s scenic appeal attracts tourists who embark on road trips to explore the island’s natural wonders and cultural heritage.

The Central Highway plays a vital role in promoting tourism in Cuba. It connects major tourist destinations, such as Havana, Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba, allowing visitors to explore the country’s rich cultural heritage, pristine beaches, and natural attractions. The highway provides easy access for both domestic and international travelers, enhancing the tourism industry and generating economic opportunities.

Maintenance and Upgrades

Regular maintenance and periodic upgrades are essential to ensure the longevity and optimal performance of the Central Highway. Ongoing efforts are made to maintain the road surface, repair bridges, maintain signage, and improve safety features. Additionally, technological advancements and environmental considerations are taken into account when implementing upgrades.


The Central Highway of Cuba stands as a symbol of connectivity, economic progress, and national integration. Spanning the length of the country, this historic highway plays a vital role in facilitating trade, tourism, and everyday travel. Its construction and ongoing maintenance demonstrate Cuba’s commitment to developing a robust transportation infrastructure that serves the needs of its people and supports economic growth.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How long did it take to construct the Central Highway? 

The construction of the Central Highway in Cuba was a massive endeavor that took several decades to complete. The project began in the late 1920s and continued until 1931. The exact timeline can vary for different sections of the highway, as construction occurred in phases over the years. The challenging terrain and the scale of the project contributed to the extended construction period. However, the result was a well-connected and significant transportation route that spans the entire island of Cuba.

Q2: What are some notable attractions along the highway?

The Central Highway in Cuba offers travelers a variety of notable attractions and points of interest along its route. Here are some examples:

  • Viñales Valley: Located near the town of Viñales in the province of Pinar del Río, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, tobacco plantations, and stunning limestone karst formations.
  • Havana: As the capital city of Cuba, Havana offers a wealth of attractions, including historic landmarks like Old Havana (Habana Vieja), the Malecon waterfront promenade, El Capitolio, the Plaza de la Catedral, and the vibrant cultural scene of music, art, and dance.
  • Varadero: Situated on the Hicacos Peninsula in the province of Matanzas, Varadero is a popular beach resort destination known for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a wide range of water activities and resorts.
  • Santa Clara: This city in the province of Villa Clara is notable for its historical significance, as it was the site of the decisive Battle of Santa Clara during the Cuban Revolution. Visitors can explore the Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum, which commemorates the life and legacy of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
  • Cienfuegos: Known as the “Pearl of the South,” Cienfuegos boasts a beautiful harbor and well-preserved colonial architecture. The city’s highlights include the historic center (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Teatro Terry, and the picturesque Malecon.
  • Trinidad: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad is renowned for its colonial charm and cobblestone streets. Visitors can explore well-preserved buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Brunet, and the Museo Romántico.

These are just a few examples of the many attractions that can be found along the Central Highway in Cuba. Travelers can discover an array of cultural, historical, and natural wonders as they journey through the diverse regions of the island.

Q3: Can tourists drive along the Central Highway and explore different regions of Cuba?

Yes, tourists can drive along the Central Highway and explore different regions of Cuba. The highway provides easy access to various cities, towns, and tourist destinations, allowing travelers to experience the country’s diverse landscapes, cultural heritage, and natural attractions.

Q4: Are there tolls on the Central Highway?

No, there aren’t any tolls on the Central Highway in Cuba.

Q5: What was the total cost of the Central Highway?

The total cost of the Central Highway was 110,989,659.75 Cuban pesos.

In this article, we have explored the Central Highway of Cuba, its historical significance, design, and impact on transportation and connectivity. The Central Highway continues to play a crucial role in facilitating commerce, tourism, and regional integration, making it a vital artery of transportation for the island.

©️ 2023 Eastern Engineering Group wrote and published this article. All rights reserved.


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