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Further Suhua Highway improvement set to be completed in 2032: Bureau

05/14/2024 08:56 PM
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Rocks block a tunnel on Suhua Highway, a section of Provincial Highway No. 9 that starts in Taipei and go through New Taipei and the eastern counties of Yilan, Hualien and Taitung, on April 22, 2024. File photo courtesy of Highway Bureau
Rocks block a tunnel on Suhua Highway, a section of Provincial Highway No. 9 that starts in Taipei and go through New Taipei and the eastern counties of Yilan, Hualien and Taitung, on April 22, 2024. File photo courtesy of Highway Bureau

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) An ongoing project to improve road conditions on the Suhua Highway along Taiwan's rugged east coast is proceeding roughly according to schedule and is expected to be finished by 2032, amid increasing concerns about travel safety in the aftermath of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake last month.

According to the Highway Bureau, which oversees the project that passed an initial environmental impact assessment on Tuesday, a construction plan could be completed as early as late 2024.

The bureau aims to expedite its actions in an effort to procure all required land around August next year and commence construction in early 2027, the bureau's Director-General Chen Wen-rui (陳文瑞) told reporters.

Construction of the NT$82 billion (US$2.5 billion) project has been planned since 2019 for three stretches of the highway, which connects Yilan and Hualien counties.

Originally, construction was forecast to start around 2025 and be completed by 2030, at an estimated cost of NT$55 billion.

Last month, the bureau explained in a press release that the highway had been fine-tuned with the addition of a 10-kilometer tunnel.

Safety enhancements between Dongao and Nanao in Yilan County, as well as between Heping and Hezhong, and Heren and Chongde in Hualien County will complement a major overhaul the highway underwent from 2011 to 2020, according to the bureau.

The previous upgrade involved the sections between Suao and Dongao, Nanao and Heping, and Hezhong and Daqingshui.

Concerns about the safety of the highway rose after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Hualien County on April 3, leading to partial closures and limited access.

Chen emphasized the urgent need to further improve the Suhua Highway, pointing out that rockfalls may become more frequent in the coming years, especially in the section south of Heping.

(By Chang Hsiung-feng and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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