Transamazon Highway

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Transamazon Highway

Transamazon Highway, the red, earthen two-lane road that crosses Brazil from the east to the west. Constructed in the 1970s, the 3,400 mile-long Transamazônica, or BR-320, begins in João Pessoa and skirts the southern edge of the Amazonian plain. Crossing the Belém-Brasília Highway in northern Goiás, it follows the arch of the Amazon in Pará, cutting through Amazonas. With Peru's failure to build a road that would join BR-320 in Acre, officials in Brazil changed the course of the road from Acre to Benjamin Constant, Amazonas.

Although vehicles use ferries or rafts to cross larger rivers, such as the Tapajós, Xingú, or Madeira, log structures cover smaller ones. Some sections of the Transamazon are compacted earth, others are made of plinthite pebbles; the forest constantly re-claims some portions, and other parts flood during the rainy season.

Transamazônica was created as part of a development project initiated by PIN (Programa de Integracão Nacional), which was announced in June 1970 by President Emílio Garrastazú Médici. The scheme called for the building of the Transamazon Highway as a means of transporting immigrants from the poverty-stricken Northeast to the unpopulated and underdeveloped states of Rondônia, Mato Grosso, and Acre. Six different construction companies contracted labor and brought in supplies, while crews began working on 200 mile sections in 1971. The workers left behind the permanent construction camps they built, which contained housing, electricity, schools, health centers, and post offices that served as frontier posts for immigrants. The Brazilian government reserved 6 miles on either side of the Transamazon as settlement sites for those participating in the program. BR-320 was officially opened in December 1973.

See alsoAmazon River; Highways; Médici, Emílio Garrastazú.


Nigel J. H. Smith, Rainforest Corridors: The Transamazon Colonization Scheme (1982).

Thomas E. Skidmore, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964–1985 (1988).

Ben Box, ed., 1990 South American Handbook, 66th ed. (1990).

Andrew Revkin, The Burning Season (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Oates, Wallace E. The RFF Reader in Environmental and Resource Policy. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future, 2006.

Smith, Nigel J.H. The Enchanted Amazon Rainforest. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Stewart, Douglas Ian. After the Trees: Living on the Transamazon Highway. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.

                                             Carolyn Jostock