Suhua Highway set to reopen

DRIVING SUCCESS::After severe rain damage to the road, construction crews braved difficult conditions to complete repairs ahead of schedule, officials said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 - Page 3

Suhua Highway is to reopen for traffic on Wednesday next week following completion of road repairs, the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) said yesterday.

Traffic on the highway was disrupted in the middle of last month after sections of the road were damaged near the 115.8km milepost between Suao (蘇澳) and Dongao (東澳) following 33 days of rain.

Since Jan. 3, vehicles have only been allowed to use the highway between 5am and 9am.

DGH deputy director-general Chao Hsin-hua (趙興華) said the agency had originally planned to complete the road repair work by Feb. 8.

However, work proceeded ahead of schedule thanks to improving weather conditions, he said.

Chao said the highway will be opened again for two way traffic using both lanes of the highway at 5am on Wednesday next week.

Although the directorate will not restrict the types of vehicles that are able to use the highway, Chao said that large passenger or cargo vehicles are required to keep a safe distance of 50m between vehicles and to observe a 25kph speed limit when driving through the 115.8km milepost.

Chao said the directorate would start regulating access to the highway again at 8am on Feb. 19, and this would continue until May 31.

During this period, only one lane will be open for traffic and all vehicles must carefully follow traffic signals, Chao said.

The directorate’s road maintenance division chief Chen Ching-fa (陳進發) said that the heavy rain had severely damaged the road near the 115.8km milepost, damaging the road’s foundation.

“We needed to protect the foundations that remained and in the meantime reinforce the slopes bordering the road to avoid landslides caused by the rain,” he said.

Chen said that construction crews managed to carry out the work in often treacherous working conditions.

According to the division, there were only five dry days between Dec. 14 and yesterday.

Therefore, most of the work had to be carried out in the rain, Chen said.

To reinforce the road’s slopes, he said a bench construction method was used, which excavated from the top to the bottom.

“Crews had to work at a height of about 67m and there was not even space for the excavator to move at the beginning,” Chen said.

“The driver operating the excavator needed to hold on to tree branches and drive at the same time, just in case there might be a landslide while he was working, in which case the excavator might be washed away by the landslide, but he could survive,” Chen added.