Honduras Table of Contents
Figure 7. Transportation System, 1993
Although sporadic attempts have been made to improve Honduras's transportation system, most recently in the late 1980s, the country's transportation system fails to meet the needs of its population. Much of the system is old and in disrepair, and many of its elements, in particular the railroad system, were built for a specialized purpose--such as transporting bananas to ports--instead of transporting goods and passengers nationwide. In 1993 Tegucigalpa remained the only Spanish-speaking capital in the Americas with no rail service (see fig. 7).
In 1993 Honduras had almost 9,000 kilometers of roads, of which only 1,700 kilometers were paved. Most paved roads connect the ports and industrial areas of north central and northwestern Honduras. Only one paved highway joins the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, a branch of the Pan American Highway that extends south from Puerto Cortés through San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa to the main east-west section at Nacaome. Another paved road in poor condition stretches southwest from San Pedro Sula to the Guatemalan and Salvadoran borders, and a newly paved road links the capital with Dulce Nombre de Culmí in northeastern Honduras. Other areas are served only by gravel or earthen roads, often impassable in rainy weather.
Honduras's 785 kilometers of railroad were originally built by the banana companies and consist of two separate systems with differing gauges. The larger system, with almost 600 kilometers of track, was built by Standard Fruit Company in the early 1900s. Half of this system is 1.067-meter narrow gauge; the other half consists of 0.914-meter, narrow-gauge lines. The government nationalized the Standard Fruit line in 1983, renaming it the Honduras National Railroad (Ferrocarril Nacional de Honduras--FNH). The other system, still owned by the Tela Railroad Company, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands International, encompasses 190 kilometers of 1.067-meter narrow-gauge lines. Both systems are located in the north central and northwestern coastal areas of Honduras and provide freight and passenger service. In 1992 Honduras announced that it and El Salvador would build a new transisthmian route to compete with the Panama Canal, with completion scheduled for 1997. No construction had begun, however, by the end of 1993.
Three ports handle almost all of Honduras's seaborne trade. Puerto Cortés at the mouth of the Río Sula is by far the country's largest port. Most of the country's agricultural exports--and imports of petroleum and finished products--pass through its wharves. A new deep-water port in Puerto Castilla in north-central Honduras was expanded in the mid-1980s, mostly with United States financing and technical help, to allow for the influx of military personnel and matériel. With the end of the Contra war in Nicaragua and the reduction of United States military involvement in northern Honduras, however, efforts have been made to transform Puerto Castilla into an agricultural exporting center. Lack of land access, however, has impeded these attempts. San Lorenzo is a small port on the Golfo de Fonseca handling mostly sugar and shrimp exports.
Honduras's mountainous terrain and lack of alternative transportation modes make air travel one of the most important means of transportation. The country has two major international airports--Toncontín at Tegucigalpa and La Mesa near San Pedro Sula. Both cities have regularly scheduled nonstop service to Miami and major cities in Mexico and Central America. Regularly scheduled domestic service also links La Ceiba with the country's two largest cities and carries tourists to Roatán on the largest island, Isla de Roatán, in the scenic Islas de la Bahía. Unscheduled service to small unpaved fields provides access from rural areas to the larger towns.
Data as of December 1993