This report is from a port visit to Panama in late-June, 2003.

Panama City, Panama roads (port visit, long)

Hi, all. We spent a few days in Balboa, Panama, on the west side of the Panama Canal and right across the canal from Panama City, Panama.  Took a few excursions into the city, and have a few notes:

- The Canal is generally regarded as the dividing line between North America and South America. Crossing the canal between Balboa and Panama City is the "Bridge of the Americas", a 4-lane undivided, steel truss overhead bridge with a 65 kph (about 40 MPH) speed limit. A rough estimate on bridge length is about 5200 feet with perhaps a 1300-1400 foot main span. Nautical maps show the vertical clearance as 61 meters (about 200 feet) at high tide...and there's a significant tidal change, about 8 feet.

- One likely reason why the bridge remains undivided is because one lane is omnidirectional. Normally, there are 2 lanes in each direction (and the bridgeway is striped as such). During the morning rush period (6:30am to 8 or 9am), signs show the configuration as 3 eastbound (inbound) lanes and 1 westbound (outbound) lane. Afternoon rush hour follows the normal configuration.

- Both ends of the Bridge had yellow diamond/warning signs showing "pavement configuration change" at 500m, 200m, and 100m intervals from the ends of the Bridge....the bridge deck is concrete, while the approach roads on each end are asphalt.

- West of the Bridge, the "Pan-American Highway" is a 4-lane divided route for at least a few miles....I'd consider it a "Jersey freeway".  I was unable to go any further west than the interchange accessing the base (at of our old bases when we controlled the canal, now run by the Panamanians). The interchange was an odd 5-ramp par-clo. Speed limit along this "Jersey freeway" was 80 kph (50 MPH).  Shoulders were minimal and accel/decel lanes were practically non-existent. In other words, comparable to many parts of US 1 and US 22 in New Jersey (US 1 in Metuchen comes to mind).

- At the east end of the bridge is a complex interchange providing at least partial access in 4 directions (and including some abandoned grades). The primary "dumping of traffic" was originally onto the Ave. De los Poetas (into the southwestern part of "old Panama City", while newer construction directs primary traffic onto the Ave. De los Martiresm, which skirts farther north.

- The Ave. De los Martires has a trumpet interchange at the Calle 3 De November (3rd of November Street), which connects to the Ave Balboa (also signed as "6th Ave South") along the waterfront. At that south end, there is a 2-lane flyover to access the eastbound lanes on the Ave Balboa.

- The Ave Balboa is a 6-lane divided arterial that generally follows the waterfront towards "New Panama City" (which I never really got into). As with the Bridge of the Americas, signs show a different configuration during morning rush hour: 4 lanes westbound, 2 lanes eastbound.

- Noticed all sorts of streets, ranging from narrow, 2-way streets to 4-lane one-way streets.

- Lots of BGSes...couldn't determine the font type (not good at that sort of thing). Many BGS listing both "Corredor Norte" (a northern expressway bypass) and "Corredor Sur" (a spur expressway leading into/out of town to the east). I actually passed by the west end of "Corredor Norte", at the Ave Roosevelt, where an interchange is under construction.

- Saw an interesting mix of traffic signals. Towards the western part of town, many signals were even having 8" lenses with a 12" red lens. Further east in the middle, there were side-mounted/mast-mounted combinations. One oddity: about 3-4 seconds before the "yellow phase", there is a "flashing green phase".  A few left-thru turn signals existed, using a 4-lanes vertical setup.  Dedicated left-turn signals used red arrows.

- A final note on driving habits: traffic signals, stop signs, and speed limits are suggestive, not requirements. Determining who has the "right-of-way" is based on the loudness of one's horn and how far forward they wish to nudge the nose of their vehicle.

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