Repaired Yilan-Hualien highway partially reopens

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–The section of Yilan to Dongao of the Suhua Highway linking Suao City of northern Yilan County and Hualien in eastern Taiwan was reopened to traffic yesterday afternoon after the completion of initial urgent road repair work. Under the initial measure, only vehicles under 21 metric tons were permitted to use the one-lane two-way transport service for safety reasons, according to officials with the Directorate General of Highways (DGH) under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

Tourist buses with passengers aboard will also be allowed to use the highway under close supervision by traffic administrators. But the section will be opened to heavy-duty vehicles by the end of the year when enhanced road repair and construction work is completed, they said. The section, at the 115.8-kilometer mark of the Suao-Hualien Highway, was closed at around 10 a.m. on Oct. 27 after a breach of the road foundation expanded to 100 meters with a width of around one meter, worsening from an initial crack of about 25 meters caused to torrential rains on Oct. 9. The enlargement of the road breach was prompted by the falling of more large chunks of soil filled with heavy rainwater on the coastal mountain highway

Following emergency repair and reinforced construction work, the DGH allowed vehicles under 21 tons to go through the section two ways on a single lane at 2:40 p.m. under strict traffic control. The officials permitted tourist buses to use the section on conditions that the passengers had to get off the vehicles and walk the section on foot with helmets on heads. But after consultation among DGH officials, bus drivers and tour guides, the officials agreed to let the tourist buses carry passengers beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Tour guides and bus drivers argued that making tourists get off the bus and walk on a single-lane highway would increase safety risks for them.

Officials said the DGH will continue speeding up the repair and maintenance work on the more fragile and vulnerable sections of the Suhua Highway for residents and enterprises on Taiwan’s eastern coast as well as for the large number of tourists. But they said the normal two-lane and two-way traffic service can be fully resumed only by the end of December because of tough construction work and bigger challenges to engineers and road workers. The Dongao section has been one of the tracts on the coastal highway most prone to damage by weather conditions and other natural factors like earthquakes. The MOTC has started a project to modify and improve the highway conditions on this section as well as two other sections to prevent disruptions in transport services by natural factors.