Full implementation of provisions of the 1955 Treaty and Memorandum of Understandings between the United States and the Republic of Panama which concern Company-Government operations moved toward completion in the closing days of August with enactment of the property transfer legislation and the appropriation by Congress of $750,000 for engineering and design work on the high level bridge across the Canal.
The only remaining legislative action required is that providing for adjustment of conditions of employment in agencies in the Canal Zone. The Senate has already approved legislation in this field.
Five tracts of land in Colon covering a total area of about 48 1/2 acres, together with buildings and other improvements, are scheduled for early transfer to the Republic of Panama.
Some of this property has been occupied and used by the Panama Canal Company or its predecessor, the Panama Railroad Company, for more than 100 years. Two of the areas, the Hotel Washington and Colon Hospital sites, are among the most valuable of the land to be transferred. All properties involved have a total value of approximately $25,000,000.
A schedule for the transfer of all properties in accordance with terms of the Treaty and Memorandum of Understandings has been arranged by the Company-Government, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and the U.S. Embassy. The Treaty terms allow time for the Company-Government to construct or establish such replacement facilities within the Canal Zone as railroad terminal facilities, quarters, and a high school.
In addition to the five Colon areas to be transferred in the immediate future, several properties on the Pacific side and one in Colon will be transferred by the State Department as soon as necessary legal formalities are completed. These are Paitilla Point; the J.N. Vialette and Huerta de San Doval tracts in Panama City; the Aspinwall tract and two military reservations on Taboga Island; and the lot in Colon formerly reserved for consulate purposes. Of these, the Aspinwall, San Doval, and Vialette tracts are properties of the Canal Zone Government.
One of the most valuable properties of the Canal company to be transferred at an early date under the schedule agreed upon is the Panama Railroad Yard in Panama City, which has served the Pacific side of the Isthmus since the railroad was completed 102 years ago.
This transfer will be made as soon as new freight and passenger facilities have been established in Ancon near the boundary line. It is planned to convert the former Tivoli Commissary into a freight depot and construct a small passenger station in the area adjacent to the former Pacific Service Center.
The remaining properties, all of which are in Colon and are owned by the Company-Government, will be transferred after replacement facilities are provided. These areas include the principal residential area in New Cristobal; the Cristobal High School and Colon Beach residences; the residential area of Fort De Lesseps; and the Colon railroad station.
The withdrawal from the Colon railroad station and site will take place after all other areas in Colon have been vacated.
While no exact dates have been established under the transfer schedule it is expected that legal formalities and provisions for municipal services in the five Colon areas can be arranged so that formal transfer of these areas can be made before the end of October. The transfer of the Panama Railroad terminal facilities from Panama City is expected to be accomplished by the end of next May.
The exact dates of transfer of the five areas in Colon will depend upon final arrangements and agreements for coordinated use of such facilities as water and sewer lines, street lighting, fire alarm systems, and electric power now serving the areas. Also, the erection of a wire fence will be required in the Fort De Lesseps area before that property is transferred.
It is estimated that all of the work in connection with such municipal services can be accomplished within a few days of actual working time after agreements have been made by the various Company and Panama Government units directly concerned.
Except for the single wage scale and extension of Civil Service retirement to Panamanian employees of the Company-Government, only one other major provision of the 1955 Treaty remains to be implemented. This is the withdrawal by the United States from the handling of commercial cargo for transshipment. This provision is contingent on the establishment of satisfactory port facilities in Colon.
The funds appropriated for the bridge will be used for preliminary architectural and engineering design work. It is planned to have this work done by contract.
It is expected that contracts for foundation work on the bridge can be made in about 15 months. Contracts for the superstructure can be awarded within about two years, under a schedule which has been prepared by the Engineering and Construction Bureau.
The probable site of the high level bridge is in the area of Thatcher Ferry although the entire area between Miraflores and La Boca will be investigated.
A clearance of over 200 feet will be required above the Canal channel while the span crossing the channel would have a 1,000-foot clearance for ship traffic.