Pan American Highway

Those renting a car in Panama will most likely at some point end up on the Pan American Highway, which is a valuable mainland thoroughfare. In fact, even if you don't rent a car in Panama, you'll probably be treated to a trip along the famed roadway, which stretches from Alaska on down to the lower end of South America. Curiously enough, the Pan American Highway isn't exactly one big, complete highway. It's actually more of a highway system, with various connecting roads that make up much of its links. Where the Pan American Superhighway enters Panama from Costa Rica, it extends in a convincing route until you reach the infamous Darien Gap Province. In this highly undeveloped region, the Pan American Highway basically terminates in the Panamanian town of Yaviza, only to truly re-establish itself in the Colombian town of Lomas Aisiadas. The Darien Gap is thus known as the most notable "Missing Link" in the Pan American Superhighway chain.

The Panamerican Highway was first conceived in the late 1800"s, right around the time the French were undertaking their attempt at the Panama Canal. Brought into consideration during the First Pan American Conference, the proposal for a road route covering the length of the Americas would eventually lead nowhere. One can imagine the considerable size of such a project, and it would undoubtedly require a devoted participation from each affected country. It wasn't until 1923 that a real proposal for the Panamerican Highway took hold, and two years later, the first conference for its purpose was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mexico beat all other countries in the race to complete its stretch of road, doing so in 1950. Panama is currently being credited for renovating much of its stretch of the Panamerican Highway, and visitors will find the majority of it to be two lanes in each direction. Entering from Costa Rica to the west, the first major stop on the Pan American Highway in Panama is the city of David. The capital of the Chiriqui Province, David is a major Panamanian travel hub, partly because of its location on the featured roadway. Just east of David, the Pan American Highway connects with the main road leading north to the Bocas del Toro Province. Should you continue east from here, it's only about 275 miles to Panama City.

Before you get to Panama City, you'll have the chance to cross over the Panama Canal on the Centennial Bridge. The Bridge of the Americas was the original link for this part of the Pan American Superhighway, and it crosses the Pacific stretch leading into the canal at the town of Balboa. Once the Panama Canal was built in 1914, Panama City would more or less end up a bit disconnected from the rest of the republic. It would take a bit of time for the number of cars in Panama to increase, but once they became more abundant, and a new road was built in Panama that lead to the Chiriqui Province, it was becoming increasingly important to build a bridge to better connect Panama City to the increasing network of roads. The Bridge of the Americas would provide a very important link for the Pan American Superhighway when it was completed in 1962. It cost some $20,000,000 to build, and is today a major Panama attraction. In 2004, however, the Bridge of the Americas would be replaced by the Centennial Bridge as the link for the Pan American Highway, thus alleviating the overcrowding that was occurring on the former. Many Panama tours include a crossing of the Bridge of the Americas, which provides insight into the history of the Pan American Highway in Panama. The new Centennial Bridge is quite an architectural feat, and the two enjoy a considerable amount of notoriety around the world.

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