hai government, the Expressway opened to traffic in October, 1988, marking the start of China’s massive plan to upgrade the highway network.
China’s first purposebuilt highway: The Shanghai-Jiading Expressway
In the early 1980s, the length of China’s highway network was no more than 900,000 km, according to the Ministry of Transport.
By the end of last year, the total length of highways open to traffic was about 4.8 million km, about 5.2 times the length in 1984 when highway construction work was in the early stage of development, the Ministry of Transport said.
Last year, expressways attaining modern transportation standards accounted for 136,500 kilometers of the total length of highways nationwide, the longest network in the world, the ministry said.
Expressway construction really began to take shape in 2005 when the ministry introduced the “7918” network, which included seven radial expressways from Beijing, nine north-to-south expressways, and 18 east-to-west expressways.
The network was upgraded with two more north-to-south expressways after the ministry released the National Highway Network Planning (20132030) program in 2013. The network was then renamed “71118”.
Investment in highway construction was 2.1 trillion yuan last year, a rise of 18.2 percent from 2016, and funding for expressways exceeded 900 billion yuan, a rise of 12.4 percent from the year before, according to the ministry.
The rapid development of the highway network has greatly improved traffic capacity and efficiency.
Cheng Xinguang, a 50-yearold from Jixi county, Xuancheng city, Anhui province, has been impressed by the great changes highway construction work has brought for him.
Before the expressway connecting Jixi and Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province, opened in 2014, Cheng used to drive on winding mountain roads for more than three hours to reach his hometown in Zhejiang and visit his parents’ house.
“The road I used to drive on has many curves which made it extremely dangerous when encountering large trucks and cars,” he said.
“Now it is much safer and easier to get home, and it only takes about 90 minutes.”
The world’s longest desert-crossing highway: The Beijing-Urumqi Expressway
China’s busiest highway: The GuangzhouShenzhen Expressway
However, the highway construction program has also sparked an argument about sections that include tollways.
Nationwide, the length of tollways had reached 163,700 km by the end of last year, accounting for 3.4 percent of the total length of the nation’s highways, according to the ministry.
The nation’s tollways attracted combined investment of more than 8 trillion yuan from 2010 until the end of last year, the ministry said. However, their combined deficit reached 403 billion yuan last year.
The Jihuang Expressway, a tollway that runs from Jixi to Huangshan city, connects Anhui and Zhejiang. Construction finished in 2014.
Cheng, along with most of his peers who use this expressway, cares more about safety than the toll fees he pays at the various booths.
“It costs 40 yuan for a single trip of about 110 km,” he said. “It’s not expensive, because the shorter distance means I use less fuel and my vehicle is not getting worn out on the highway compared with the poorly maintained twisting mountain road,” he said.
“The toll fee, from my perspective, is necessary for the maintenance and operation of a healthy and convenient highway. I pay the money for a