Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Leak closes northbound Hsuehshan tunnel lane

TRAFFIC JAMMED As water flowed for the second time since last month, the transportation ministry caught flack for gridlocked holiday traffic

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A water leak that occurred in the nation's longest tunnel on Saturday night generated another nightmare for transportation officials busy handling traffic congestion on the nation's roads during the five-day holiday weekend.

The leak was detected at the 26.2km post on the northbound lanes of the Hsuehshan Tunnel. Water dripped from the wall above the side of the road at a rate of 0.1 liters to 0.2 liters per second.

A similar leak happened at the same spot last month.

The Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau decided on Saturday to close the outer lane of the northbound tunnel at 10pm to repair the leak.

It issued a statement yesterday stating that the pipe that was supposed to help drain the water had become clogged and was cleared out before the lane was reopened at 5am yesterday.

The bureau, however, convened an emergency meeting yesterday morning and decided to close the outer lane of the northbound tunnel again at 11pm yesterday as the water continued to drip from the wall. The lane is scheduled to reopen this morning.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau announced yesterday it would restrict the number of the vehicles traveling on the nation's freeways from yesterday until tomorrow, with only 400 vehicles allowed to pass the on-ramp metering devices each hour. Under normal traffic conditions, the devices allow 800 vehicles per hour to enter freeways.

Moreover, the Freeway Bureau has also adjusted the ramp waiting times from seven seconds to 23 seconds. In addition, northbound freeway ramps in Tainan, Shuishang (水上), Jhongli (中壢) and Dasi (大溪) will be closed all day tomorrow.

The bureau advised motorists to take provincial highways to avoid traffic congestion.

The Freeway Bureau enacted the measures after facing criticism from the public for its inability to regulate the traffic flow.

According to the bureau's statistics yesterday, 2.25 million vehicles operated on the freeways on Saturday, slightly fewer than on Friday.

Traffic on the southbound lanes of the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway became heavy at 9am yesterday, with serious congestion occurring from Nangang (南港) to the Hsuehshan Tunnel.

Chang Chia-chu (張家祝), former deputy minister of transportation and communication and now the president of the Chung Hwa University, said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications was careless in its preparations for controlling traffic flow during the holidays.

Chang drove along the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway yesterday morning and found that he could only drive at a speed of 10kph inside the Hsuehshan Tunnel.

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