First section of new Guanyin Tunnel begins construction
The first section of the Suhua Highway Improvement Project’s Guanyin Tunnel ( ) was blasted open yesterday morning and represents a key moment for the lengthy construction project.
The entire distance of the Suhua Highway Improvement Project is 38.4 kilometers and it includes eight tunnels that add up to 24.5 kilometers. Out of all of the tunnels, the longest and most critical construction segment is the 7.9-kilometer Guanyin Tunnel.
According to Suhua Improvement Engineering Office Director Shau How-jei ( ), Guanyin Tunnel will connect Gufeng Tunnel ( ) to the 55-meter-long Guyin Bridge ( ), forming a combined tunnel of 12.7 kilometers — the second-longest in Taiwan after the 12.9-kilometer Hsuehshan Tunnel ( ).
Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Chien-yu ( ) hosted a blasting ceremony yesterday morning for the first of three sections of Guanyin Tunnel. The ceremony represents one step toward completing the project.
He said that the three sections of the tunnel are designed to move traffic in the southern direction. After the start of first part yesterday, the whole tunnel is expected to become operational by the end of June next year. Currently, three construction sections of the project have already been blasted open in the northern direction, with the fourth scheduled to be opened in October, said Chen. He also stressed his confidence in completing the project on time.
Directorate General of Highways Chao Hsin-hua ( ) said that the Suhua Highway Improvement Project will complete its construction and start operations in several stages, with speed limits set at 60 kilometers per hour.
The first phase, from Suao to Dongao ( ) in eastern Yilan, is estimated to be completed in the beginning of 2017 with operations beginning in the first half of that year. The second and third phases, which run from Nanao ( ) to Heping ( ) and Hechung ( ) to Qingshui ( ) are expected to be completed by the end of 2017 and opened by the first half of 2018.
Both compact cars and larger vehicles are currently able to travel on the existing Suhua Highway, though speed limits for larger vehicles have been lowered due to increased risk of accidents on the winding roads. After the new project is completed, larger vehicles will be guided to the improved sections, but will need to pass weight and overheating inspections before entering the tunnel.
In consideration of the 20 to 30 minutes it would take for fire trucks to arrive on the scene of a fire in the tunnel, Guanyin tunnel will be equipped with automatic sprinkler systems with a sprinklers positioned every 50 meters. The system will be able to sustain a water sprinkling time of 40 minutes, said the Suhua Improvement Engineering Office.