April 16, 2003
In Argentina, a major portion of the east-west road known as National Route 7 was opened to traffic in the province of San Luis. San Luis is located near that South American country’s geographical center, and the portion of National Route 7 that was built within the province is 137 miles (221 kilometers) in length. This construction project began during the spring of 2001. Lighting was installed along the entire length of National Route 7 in San Luis, a key feature that sets apart this part of the road from the segments that have been built in other provinces.
The governor of San Luis throughout the duration of the project was María Alicia Lemme. She was able to pay for the construction of the province’s section of National Route 7 with infrastructure funds that had been secured and set aside by her predecessor Adolfo Rodríguez Saá.
The origins of National Route 7 can be traced to the Western Camino Royal, a road that was used during the longtime colonial era in which Argentina was a territory of the Spanish Empire. The Western Camino Royal started in Buenos Aires and, eventually winding westward through San Luis and the neighboring province of Mendoza, ended at the city of Santiago in Chile. With the introduction of railways in that section of South America during the latter part of the 19th century, the importance of the road notably declined.
The increased use of motor vehicles in Argentina by the early 1930s, however, led to a renewed interest in that route for cross-country travel. In 1935, the Argentine federal government’s National Highway Directorate (established three years earlier) initiated work on a new road basically following the course of the Western Camino Royal. This new road was designated National Route 7.
In the decades since then, construction of National Route 7 has taken place on a piecemeal basis. This road now covers a total of 761 miles (1,224 kilometers) from Buenos Aires to Argentina’s border with Chile, thereby serving as a major transportation link between the Atlantic coast and Andes mountain range. In addition, National Route 7 has been classified as a branch of the Pan-American Highway (running through both North America and South America). The section of the Pan-American Highway following the western terminus of National Route 7 is Route CH-60 in Chile’s Valparaíso Region.
National Route 7 has been officially named after José de San Martín (1778-1850). San Martín, a military leader who was born in Argentina, played a pivotal role in the successful efforts of South Americans in the continent’s central and southern areas to gain independence from Spanish rule. He is widely known today at the El Libertador (The Liberator) of Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
Photo Credit: Dario Alpern (licensed under Creative Commons)
Additional information on National Route 7 in Argentina is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Route_7_(Argentina)