Country Listing

Paraguay Table of Contents


Roads and Vehicles


A trolley in Asunción
Courtesy Tim Merrill


Construction work on the Trans-Chaco Highway
Courtesy Inter-American Development Bank

The lack of an adequate road system was one of the largest structural obstacles to more rapid and more evenly distributed development in the 1980s. As in the economy at large, Paraguay had made great strides in highway construction, increasing the road network from fewer than 1,000 kilometers after World War II to more than 15,000 kilometers in the late 1980s. Road construction, primarily the task of the Ministry of Public Works and Communications, increased steadily in the 1970s, representing about 25 percent of public-sector investment in that decade. But Paraguay still lacked an adequate network of paved roads. In the late 1980s, only 20 percent of the country's roads were paved, and the remaining 80 percent were mostly dirt roads, easily flooded and often impassible during inclement weather. Only three paved highways extended well into the interior from the capital.

In the 1980s, the completion of two major highway construction projects facilitated travel from Asunción to Argentina and Brazil. The other major thoroughfare in the country was the 700-kilometer Trans-Chaco Highway, one of the government's principal attempts to develop the Chaco region. Construction progressed slowly, however, and in the late 1980s only about half of the road had been paved. Most vehicles could not complete the trek to the Upper Chaco. The government was also building feeder roads to allow the transport of agricultural goods. Feeder road construction was very slow in many areas, and private agribusinesses sometimes built their own roads.

The number of registered vehicles quadrupled from 1975 to 1985 as a result of the growing road network, the strong performance of agriculture, and general economic growth. There were roughly 40,000 automobiles registered in Paraguay in the late 1980s, one-sixth of which ran on "alco-nafta," an ethanol-enhanced fuel. Other vehicles included 2,000 taxis, 3,000 buses, and more than 20,000 each of trucks, pickups, and motorcycles. Public transportation, including buses and streetcars, were widely used in Asunción, but service was limited in rural areas, especially in the Chaco. New bus terminals were built in the 1980s and bus routes expanded, particularly to accommodate the increased demand by bus-driven tourists. The trucking industry played an expanding role in the country's transportation. According to Paraguay's Chamber of Exporters, by 1982, about 62 percent of registered exports left the country on the road system, mostly by truck.

Data as of December 1988