The entire Wugu-Yangmei overpass (五楊高架橋) will open on March 11, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said on Wednesday.
The 40km overpass is constructed alongside the Sun Yat-sen Freeway to ease peak-hour congestion between Taipei and Taoyuan, as well as between Jhongli (中壢) and Yangmei (楊梅). The ministry opened the 12km long Jhongli-Yangmei section in December last year.
The 28km section between Wugu and Jhongli — 28km in distance — was originally scheduled to open before the Lunar New Year holiday, but inclement weather and a labor shortage prevented the work from being finished on time, causing the ministry to repeatedly postpone the official opening of the entire overpass.
The ministry’s Department of Railways and Highways has arranged to have a final safety inspection of the overpass’ Wugu-Jhongli section today.
Yeh said on Wednesday that the ministry would hold an inauguration ceremony for the overpass on March 10. The overpass will officially be opened to traffic on March 11.
The National Expressway Engineering Bureau, which is building the overpass, estimated that it would help reduce driving time in peak hours by about 20 minutes.
The bureau is banning large cargo trucks from using the overpass, which is also equipped with the nation’s first high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane.
The lane can only be used by vehicles carrying more than three people.
Meanwhile, Yeh said the ministry would likely launch a trial run exempting drivers on the east-west national freeways from toll fees after the ministry begins implementing a “pay-as-you-go” policy this year. Yeh said that polls by the National Freeway Bureau showed that a majority of freeway users still opposed the plan to include the east-west national freeways in the policy, because some serve as important regional commuting routes. However, some transportation experts suggested that the ministry implement the policy first and make gradual improvements later.
Yeh said that complementary measures must be in place if the policy does not apply to the east-west freeways.
“The Freeway Construction Fund (國道建設基金) would be reduced by about NT$2 billion (US$67.5 million) a year if the freeways running east to west are excluded from the policy, which might mean the nation would not have enough funds to build another freeway,” Yeh said.
Nevertheless, Yeh said that the ministry was considering having a trial operation for two or three years exempting drivers on east-west national freeways from toll-fees to observe if there is any change in freeway user behavior. The ministry can also use that time to test how sensitive drivers are to toll fees if they are charged at different rates in peak hours and off-peak hours.