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Breakthrough achieved in key tunnel in Suhua highway project

2016/10/29 22:45

Lin Chuan (front, left)

Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) A breakthrough ceremony in the 4.7-kilometer Gufeng tunnel (谷風隧道), a key part of the project to improve the Suhua Highway that cuts through mountains along Taiwan's east coast, was held Saturday.

The project is using tunnels and freeways to replace three major sections of the cliffside road that is extremely vulnerable to rockslides -- Su'ao to Dong'ao (蘇澳至東澳), Nan'ao to Heping (南澳至和平) and Hezhong to Qingshui (和中至清水).

After the breakthrough of Gufeng Tunnel, all six tunnels in the first two sections have been broken through, and the Su'ao-Dong'ao section is expected to be opened next year, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said in presiding over the ceremony.

Lin said the project to build new sections of the Suhua Highway, which links Yilan County and Hualien County, is a major policy of the government and part of a NT$100 billion (US$3.16 billion) initiative to improve transportation in eastern Taiwan.

Other elements of the plan, will be to improve the No. 9 Provincial Highway linking Hualien and Taitung counties, laying dual tracks for the train line between those same two countries, and upgrading the North-Link Line in northeastern Taiwan.

The Suhua Improvement Engineering Office said it has faced different geological challenges during the construction process. The longest tunnel, the 7.9-km Guanyin Tunnel (觀音隧道), was broken through on May 3 after 1,445 days of work.

The Gufeng Tunnel was not as complex as the Guanyin Tunnel but encountered a serious collapse last year that was only resolved after seven months.

A historical site -- the Hanben archaeological site (漢本遺址) in Nan'ao -- was also unearthed during construction in 2012, causing a delay in construction, but progress on the project continues, and the new freeway sections are scheduled to be opened in 2019, the office said.

After the discovery, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) entrusted Academia Sinica to conduct an archaeological study of the Hanben site, digging out a number of ancient relics, including iron, jade, ceramic and stone-made items as well stone coffins that contained people's remains.

According to Academia Sinica, the top research institution in Taiwan, the ancient relics traced back 1,600 years, indicating that people who lived at that time had developed technology capable of harnessing high temperatures.

(By Worthy Shen and Lilian Wu)Enditem/ls