Not long after announcing a start date for bids and construction, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he will let voters decide if they want to hop aboard his Mayan Train proposal.
The public referendum later this month, following a public consultation that canceled a partially built airport in Mexico City, concerns a massive railway to connect the main tourist attractions across the Yucatán peninsula.
Business leaders across Yucatán have been excited with the prospect of a new way to bring both tourists and freight to less-traveled areas. But some community leaders worry that the project will have a dire environmental impact on pristine land.
The public can vote on the train and nine other proposed projects and programs Nov. 24 and 25.
Lopez Obrador has said the train would run 1,500 kilometers/932 miles across five states. He promotes it as a regional economic development project that would share the economic boom of Cancun’s world class beach resorts with poorer, more remote parts of the south.
Another project on the ballot will be construction of an oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco as well as social programs such as giving scholarships to students and pensions to seniors.
Lopez Obrador said he would openly push for public support because they are campaign promises. He won the election July 1 in a resounding victory and will take office Dec. 1.
The referendum, like the last one, will be conduction by the nonprofit Rosenblueth Foundation.
Thousands of people marched in Mexico City on Sunday in favor of the new airport project and against the idea of public referendums.
The Mayan Train would run from Cancun south through Tulum and to the Mayan ruins of Palenque. A spur would include the cities of Campeche, Mérida and Valladolid. Lopez Obrador previously said it would cost US$6 billion to US$8 billion.
The region is full of jungle, wetlands, wildlife reserves and pre-Hispanic archaeological sites, but López Obrador said Monday that there would be no environmental impact. He said it would be offset by a simultaneous project to plant about 250,000 acres (100,000 hectares) of fruit and timber trees in southern Mexico.
“The truth is that I have polls and I’m very confident that the people are going to vote to build the Mayan Train, because it won’t hurt anyone. On the contrary, it will benefit a lot of people,” he said.
Source: Associated Press