A new bridge in the mountains of southern Taiwan, boasting the nation’s tallest bridge pier at 99m, opened for traffic on Saturday.
Guchuan Bridge (谷川大橋) is the only link to the outside for the isolated mountain village of Wutai (霧台) in Pingtung County, and was completed after four years of construction in difficult terrain.
The bridge spans the valley of Ailiaobei River (隘寮北溪), and is 654m long and 10m wide, replacing an original bridge, known as Wutai No. 1 Bridge, which was destroyed by debris and floodwater during tMorakot Typhoon in August 2009.
A Directorate General of Highways official said the new bridge design addressed possible damage by flash floods during the typhoon season by increasing the distance between bridge piers, and only one pier set within the regular river flow.
That bridge pier stands at a height of 99m, which is equal to a 33-story building. It is now the highest bridge pier in Taiwan,” the official said, who declined to be named.
“The diameter of the bridge pier is about the same as the deck of the bridge at 10m. It is designed to withstand the erosion of the river’s rushing waters. Local residents should have no worries that the bridge piers will get washed out by flood waters,” he added.
The official said there were many problems that were overcome during the bridge construction.
“At times, in this mountain area we had strong winds of 5 to 6 [on the Beaufort wind scale]. Also we had thunder strikes and heavy rains. It was very difficult in those conditions. Due to this and other dangers, we had quite a few workers who got scared, walked out and quit,” he said.
“Eventually, we overcame all the tough challenges and were able to finish the project with a perfect record of ‘zero accidents’ across the 1,023 days of construction,” the official added.
With a total cost of NT$ 700 million (US$ 23.86 million), the concrete and steel structure links Wutai Township to Sandimen Township (三地門) of Pingtung County.
The two areas are inhabited mostly by Rukai and Paiwan Aborigines.
Wutai Township head Yen Chin-cheng (顏金成) said people are now no longer living on an isolated island.
“The new Guchuan Bridge is an important link for us to the outside world. It will benefit our local tourism and economic development,” Yen said.
He said that the bridge improves the lives of villagers, and also provides a safe access road for visitors heading into the mountains to enjoy the scenery, viewing of cherry blossoms in the spring, and making a trip to the area’s main tourist attraction, Shenshan Falls (神山瀑布).