The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday finalized plans to improve the Suhua Highway connecting Yilan and Hualien counties, also known as Highway No. 9.
MOTC Deputy Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the ministry had shelved the plan to build the Suhua Freeway because of controversies surrounding the project.
However, it said it would reserve the corridor in case there was a need to construct the freeway in future.
Based on the plan laid out by the Directorate General of Highways (DGH), a 3.3km tunnel will be constructed between Suao (蘇澳) and Dongao (東澳).
Meanwhile, the DGH will take advantage of old railway tunnels to build two tunnels connecting Nanao (南澳) and Heping (和平).
The tunnels will be 8.3km and 4.7km long respectively. A short tunnel will also be built between Heping and Chongde (崇德).
About 118km in length, the Suhua Highway is the only road connecting Yilan and Hualien. The section between Suao and Chongde, spanning about 77km, often becomes inaccessible during typhoon season because of landslides and other road damage.
Chi Wen-chung (祁文中), director general of MOTC’s Department of Railways and Highways, said the improvements would shorten the section between Suao and Chongde from 77km to 60.4km. The speed limit will be increased from 40kph to 60kph. The width of the road will also be expanded from between 7m and 10m to between 10m and 16m, Chi said.
The traveling time from Suao to Chongde will also be reduced from two hours to 1.2 hours.
Chi showed reporters the improvement plan delivered by the DGH. Aside from a small section between Nanao and Heping that appears to use the route designed for the Suhua Freeway, the highway improvement plan is different from the Suhua Freeway.
“We will use a combination of different construction methods. Either we improve the road conditions on Highway 9, or we create new routes by building short or long tunnels,” Chi said. “Each method was chosen based on the condition of each section of road.”
However, the ministry has maintained the policy that the railway will be the main mode of transport along the East Coast, he said.
Yeh said the ministry was expected to submit the plan to the Executive Yuan for final approval. The project will also have to be evaluated by the Environmental Protection Administration.
The ministry aims to begin construction by the end of next year and to complete it within eight years.
The cost for the project is estimated at NT$40 billion (US$1.24 billion).
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