López Obrador started off his administration with a big dream: the 950-mile (1,500-kilometer) Maya Train, a tourist line to run in a rough loop around the Yucatan Peninsula, connecting beach resorts and archaeological sites.
On the stretch between the Caribbean resorts of Cancun and Tulum, it was first planned to run on elevated tracks over the coastal highway, where most hotels are. But hotel owners complained about the effects of construction, road closures, and impacts on land on either side of the highway.
So López Obrador decided to change the route — with no environmental study — to cut a 68-mile (110-kilometer) swath through the jungle between Cancun and Tulum.
Environmentalists battled the tree-cutting, and pointed out the line would run over and probably collapse the area’s extensive network of underground caves and sinkhole lakes where some of the oldest human remains in North America have been found.
López Obrador changed the project again. Now he says that 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the double rail line will be built on an elevated platform 2.5 yards (meters) above the forest floor, supported on thousands of concrete pillars that purportedly won’t hurt the caves beneath.
China built a longer railway in similar terrain, and it took seven years. López Obrador has given army engineers one year to do the job in Mexico.
Few believe it can be done in that amount of time — if at all.
“This isn’t a farcical project, only because it’s not a project, it’s just a farce,” said Jose ‘Pepe’ Urbina, a diver who has explored the caverns for decades.
“This is not going to get finished, and it is going to cost a lot more than it was supposed to. It is going to cost the taxpayers today a lot, and the next generation will have to repair what is being damaged.”