Mexico is holding a ceremony on Friday to commemorate the launch of its Tren Maya, a tourist train considered the flagship infrastructure project of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
“It’s the most important public work in the world,” Lopez Obrador said about the roughly 965 mile-long project. Mexican tourism agency Fonatur has said the railway could create up to 715,000 new jobs by 2030.
The first section of the Tren Maya runs from the southern state of Campeche to popular tourist destination Cancun while another section from Palenque to Cancun is slated to be inaugurated by the end of December. Mexican officials have said the remaining routes will be up and running in February.
However, the project has attracted an enormous amount of criticism due to its impact on the environment. More than 3 million trees have been cut down, according to government data. And environmentalists have argued that the deforestation has been catastrophic for the habitats of animals like jaguars and spider monkeys.
The Tren Maya has also been plagued by cost overruns. Originally expected to cost $7.5 billion, Mexican authorities have conceded the train will be more than three times over budget — $28 billion.