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Entire Southern Cross-Island Highway of Taiwan opens Sunday after 13 years

Section still closed to traffic every Tuesday and Thursday

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(Directorate General of Highways photo)

(Directorate General of Highways photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A 5-kilometer line of vehicles was waiting to cross the last section of the Southern Cross-Island Highway (Provincial Highway 20) to be reopened early Sunday morning (May 1) 13 years after several sections of the highway were damaged by a typhoon.

Traffic control is being enforced on the conditionally opened section between Meishankou and Xiangyang from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week, and it is still closed every Tuesday and Thursday, according to the Directorate General of Highways. During the hours it is open, only regular cars and motorcycles are allowed to enter, while tour buses, bicycles, and trucks are barred.

At 7 a.m. on Sunday, a 5-km line of vehicles, including heavy motorcycles, was at Meishankou waiting to cross the highest section of the highway that was off-limits for the last 13 years, with many staying — and even camping — in Kaohsiung’s Taoyuan District the previous night, CNA reported.

Stores in areas adjacent to Meishankou were filled with tourists and, to the amazement of one gas station owner, vehicles lined up at his store in Taoyuan to fill their tanks.

Taoyuan District Council Chairman Wang Cheng-kuo (王正國) told CNA that the Southern Cross-Island Highway is the shortest route for residents of Taoyuan to reach Hualien, only taking about three hours. During the more than 10 years of closure, drivers had to detour by taking the South Link Highway to Hualien, which takes about seven hours.

The highway is crucial not only to residents of Kaohsiung’s mountainous areas who wish to travel to and from Taitung and Hualien but also to the development of local tourism and transportation of local produce, CNA quoted Wang as saying.