Thu, Dec 26, 2019 - Page 2 News List

DGH offers motorists grace period on Suhua

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter, in Hualien County

The approach to a tunnel on the Suhua Highway, which runs between Yilan and Hualien counties, is pictured from above in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of the Directorate-General of Highways

Motorists are to have a three-month grace period for traffic infractions while driving on the improved sections of the Suhua Highway, the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) said yesterday.

As all three sections are to be open for traffic next month, motorists would need some time to adapt to driving on them, DGH Deputy Director-General Hsu Cheng-chang (許鉦漳) said.

In April, normal enforcement would resume and the police would start cracking down on speeding inside the tunnel at Yilan County’s end of the highway, Hsu said, adding that the speed limit inside the tunnel is 60kph.

The police also plan to use technology to catch drivers who change lanes while in the tunnels or fail to maintain a safe following distance, as well as motorcyclists that attempt to use tunnels other than the Renshui Tunnel (仁水隧道), which has a motorcycle lane.

The Suhua Highway would be shortened from 79.2km to 60.55km after the improvement project is complete, which would reduce the travel time from 3.5 hours to 2.5 hours, the highway authority said.

In the initial stage of operations, the sections would be limited to small and large passenger vehicles, Hsu said, adding that after three to six months of use, the agency would evaluate if it would allow access for large cargo vehicles.

The Suhua Highway Improvement Project was launched in 2011 to enhance safety through new routes between Suao (蘇澳) and Dongao (東澳) townships in Yilan; Nanao Township (南澳) in Yilan and Heping Township (和平) in Hualien County; and Hejhong (和中) and Dacingshuei (大清水) in Hualien.

The sections from Nanao to Heping and Hejhong to Dacingshuei are to open for traffic on Jan. 6, while the Suao to Dongao section has been accessible since Feb. 7 last year, the DGH said, adding that the construction cost was NT$55.1 billion (US$1.82 billion).

To facilitate the new routes, the highway authority has constructed eight tunnels, a new bridge and a new road.

Among them, Guangyin (觀音隧道) and Gufong (谷風隧道) tunnels in the Nanao to Heping section are connected by the semi-sealed Guying Bridge (谷音橋), which is about 12.6km long, making it the nation’s second-longest tunnel, behind the Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) on the Chiang Wei-Shui Freeway (National Freeway No.5).

DGH statistics showed that 18 traffic accidents have occurred in the Suao to Dongao section since January, and more than 1,400 contraventions of traffic regulations have been reported, many of which were from motorcyclists, the agency said.

The DGH also established a traffic control center in Nanao to monitor the improved sections, Hsu said.

The center would dictate traffic management strategies to be implemented on weekdays, regular weekends and major national holidays, and respond to emergency situations, he said.

The center estimated that the traffic on the Lunar New Year’s Eve on Jan. 24 would increase by 1,000 to 1,200 vehicles.

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