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Taiwan hopes to turn eastern highway into tourist attraction

2014/10/30 18:56:20

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Taipei, Oct. 30 (CNA) The Directorate General of Highways (DGH) said Thursday it has been working with tourism authorities to turn the Suhua Highway that runs along Taiwan's picturesque eastern coastline into a "world-class attraction" once a road improvement project is completed.

Upon completion in 2017, the project will replace the accident-prone narrow coastal road that links the counties of Yilan and Hualien with three new road sections, according to bureau information.

The sections will cover areas from Suao to Dong'ao in Yilan, from Nan'ao in Yilan to Heping in Hualien, and from Heping to Chongde in Hualien, a total of 38.8 kilometers.

The old parts of the road -- which are prone to mudslides and other natural disasters -- will then be open only to bikes and small vehicles that travel at a speed under 30 kilometers per hour, said DGH Director Chao Hsin-hua.

"The old roads will target those who prefer a sustainable lifestyle, or the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market," said Chao.

Chao said his bureau has been discussing better use of the road with the management of Taroko National Park, which is accessible from the Suhua Highway.

The NT$49.3 billion (US$1.6 billion) project aims to improve road safety and reduce travel hours on the part of Highway No. 9 perched high above the Pacific Ocean. The highway stretches from Taipei in the north to the southernmost county of Pingtung.

Upgrading of the highway gained urgency after torrential rain from Typhoon Megi triggered lethal landslides on the road in 2010 that killed 26 people.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)