Mon, Jan 23, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Morning rockfalls slow Suhua traffic; congestion minor

FREEWAYS FLOWING:Traffic congestion was reported on only a few southbound sections of freeways, with fewer vehicles than expected

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

People shop for Lunar New Year calligraphy couplets in Taipei City yesterday. The Lunar New Year begins today, marking the start of the Year of the Dragon.

Cars lined up for about 10km on the Suhua Highway yesterday morning as the Directorate General of Highways regulated the traffic on the coastal highway after heavy rain caused rocks to fall from the cliffs along the route.

The directorate said rocks kept falling at the highway’s 115.6km landmark near Suao (蘇澳) in Yilan County.

While the directorate cleaned up the rocks by 10am yesterday, it received reports about fallen rocks again at around noon and decided to open only one lane for traffic. It managed to maintain two-way traffic on a single lane by 12:30pm.

Regular traffic flow resumed in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, traffic congestion was reported on only a few southbound sections of national freeways yesterday as travelers were in a hurry to return home on Lunar New Year’s eve, traditionally a day for family reunions.

Statistics from the National Freeway Bureau showed that, by 12pm yesterday, slow traffic only occurred on southbound lanes between Jhungli Service Area and Jhungli Interchange and between Changhwa System and Changhwa Interchange on Freeway No. 1 as well as between Jhungto and Wufong Interchanges on Freeway No. 3. Traffic along the rest of the freeway was smooth in general, with driving speeds of more than 80km possible on the majority of them.

Previously, the bureau estimated the freeway traffic volume would be between 1.7 million and 1.8 million vehicles on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Yesterday, it lowered its estimate to 1.6 million as most of the homebound travelers had chosen to embark earlier on road trips.

According to the bureau, the freeway traffic volume topped 1.93 million vehicles on Saturday, registering a 21 percent increase compared with the yearly average. It also found that approximately 340,000 cars took advantage of the toll-free hours between 12am and 7am yesterday, 2.3 times the average of the yearly weekend traffic volume.

In other news, visitors to Yushan (玉山) and Hohuanshan (合歡山) were able to catch a glimpse of snow on the last day of the Year of the Rabbit due to a cold front that arrived yesterday. Yushan saw a flurry that began at 7:30am and ended at 8:10am. Light snow fell on Hohuanshan beginning at 6:40am and lasting about half hour, the Central Weather Bureau said.

The bureau issued both heavy rain and low temperature alerts for residents in the northern Taiwan yesterday. It estimated that the mercury in the north and in Yilan could drop to 11?C or 12?C, with the temperature in the plains of these two areas potentially lowering to 10?C. Residents in the south, Hualien and Taitung can expect to also see the mercury slide to 13?C to 15?C.

Although the cold front is expected to weaken and the rain nationwide is likely to ease by Friday, the bureau said the temperature would rebound only slighty after Friday.

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