The final two sections of the 38.8km project to improve the Suhua Highway are to open at 4pm on Jan. 6, the Directorate-General of Highways said on Friday.
The project covers three sections along Taiwan’s rugged east coast — from Suao (蘇澳) to Dongao (東澳) townships in Yilan County; from Nanao Township (南澳) in Yilan to Heping Township (和平) in Hualien County; and from Hejhong (和中) to Dacingshuei (大清水) in Hualien.
The first stretch opened on Feb. 5 last year, while the other two sections would start operation in time to ease holiday traffic around the Lunar New Year period from Jan. 23 to Jan. 29, according to the agency.
Photo provided by Yilan County Government
The opening of the new sections would cut travel time from two-and-a-half hours to 80 minutes, the agency said.
In the first three months of operation for the two new sections, only cars and buses would be allowed, it said, adding that trucks would be permitted following an evaluation.
As with the old Suhua Highway, the new sections and tunnels would have a single lane in each direction, with a speed limit between 40 and 60kph.
Major intercity bus operators have announced that there will be a bus service between Greater Taipei and Hualien once the new sections are opened with tickets priced at NT$300 to NT$350.
The highway, which connects Yilan and Hualien counties, includes many winding sections along cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean that are accident-prone and vulnerable to landslides, resulting in frequent shutdowns.
The three sections of the project bypass the most precarious parts of the old highway, mostly through the use of tunnels that would account for more than 60 percent of the new road. The longest is a 7.9km tunnel in the middle section near the Guanyin area.
The final two segments comprise 29.1km of road, 20.7km of which run through five tunnels.
The need for an upgrade gained urgency in 2010, when Typhoon Megi triggered landslides on the road, killing 26 people.
The old Suhua Highway, with its views of Taiwan’s eastern coastline, would remain open to motorists with speed limits of 40 to 50kph.
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