TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The first section of the improved Suhua Highway (蘇花公路台) is expected to open before Lunar New Year, cutting down travel time by up to 20 minutes, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).
The new 9.7-kilometer section of the Suhua Highway set to open runs from Suao (蘇澳) in Yilan County to Dongao (東澳) in Hualien County and is known as the Su'ao - Dong'ao section.
The second new section of the highway will run from Nanao (南澳) and Heping (和平) townships of Yilan County. While third section will run between Heping and Dacingshuei (大清水) in Hualien County.
The remaining two sections are slated to be completed by the end of next year (2019) and the target for the official opening is set for just before the Lunar New Year of 2020. Once all three sections are completed, the combined new stretch of highway will be 38.8 kilometers in length.
Chen Yen-po( 陳彥伯), head of the Directorate General of Highways told Liberty Times that thee phases of testing must be completed before the new stretch of road can be opened. Chen said the second stage of testing was already completed two days ago and a final large scale exercise involving police, firefighters and health authorities is planned for Jan. 23. After which, another week of troubleshooting will be needed.
Chen said the goal is to open the road before Lunar New Year (Feb. 16), but not too close to it, so that motorists ideally have at least a week to become familiar with the new highway.
Initially, the road will only be open to small cars, and later, depending on conditions, buses and large trucks will be allowed. Due to poor circulation in the tunnel, scooters will not be allowed for the time being.
Chen advised travelers that as people start to return home for Lunar New Year and visitors flock to see the new road, conditions could be congested at times.
The speed limit on the new section will be 60 kilometers per hour, and Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said that it should be possible to maintain that speed as long as there is a safe distance between vehicles. As for the possibility of raising the speed limit, Hochen said that the government will look into this as more sections of the highway are completed.