Taiwan’s South Cross Island Highway reopens after 13 years of closure

(CNN) – Taiwan’s South Cross Island Highway has reopened to the public after a 13-year closure.

The Alpine track, which was popular with tourists and locals alike due to the fact that it passed through the picturesque rural areas of the island, was destroyed by a typhoon in 2009. Over 90% of the road was damaged and 22 bridges were washed away.

The 154 km (96 mi) highway, which connects Tainan city in southwest Taiwan with Taitung city in southeast, passes through Taiwan’s Yushan National Park, home to the island’s highest peak, Jade Mountain, and meanders through the imposing Central Mountain Range .

Along the way, drivers pass river gorges and high mountain lakes, as well as hot springs, hiking trails, and giant cypress forests.

The highest point is Yakou at 2,722 meters (8,930 ft) above sea level. The picturesque “sea of ​​clouds” has long been popular with photographers.

More than 5,800 vehicles entered the highway on the first day of opening, according to Taiwan’s General Highway Administration, which oversees all roads on the island.

This is good news for a visitor-deprived island that lost tourism revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although Taiwan has eased entry restrictions over the past two months and reduced home or hotel quarantines from 10 days to 7 days starting May 9, amateur tourists are still unable to visit the country. This has made domestic travel even more important to local tourism.

The highway reopened to traffic on May 1, just in time for the busy Labor Day weekend when many Taiwanese travel the country.

The highway passes through part of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range.

From the General Directorate of Highways

The opening has been long overdue.

Previously restored sections were razed to the ground by typhoons or heavy rains, forcing engineers back to the drawing board.

Ultimately, the engineers dug into the rock, built retaining walls from more than 120 shipping containers, installed drainage pipes, and increased vegetation on the slopes to contain landslides and roadbed erosion.

In addition, sections of the highway are so narrow that it is impossible to use large construction equipment on them.

In some of the most dangerous alpine sites, builders often had to cling to rocks with ropes to complete repairs, including installing nets, spraying cement and attaching beams.

“I guess that’s what it means to hang in the balance,” Lin Wen-long, a building contractor, told local media this April.

Due to difficult conditions, travelers must follow some rules.

Popular Yakou will be closed every Tuesday and Thursday, and motorists must enter the site between 7:00 am and 2:00 pm on all other days to minimize impact on nocturnal animals.

In addition, only vehicles weighing less than 5 metric tons, cars with a capacity of up to nine people, and motorcycles are allowed to enter.

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