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

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

The Alpine Highway, popular with tourists and locals for its route through the rural and scenic areas of the island, was devastated by a typhoon in 2009. More than 90% of the road was damaged and 22 bridges were damaged. been wiped out.

The 154 km (96 miles) long highway connecting Tainan city in southwest Taiwan with Taitung city in southeast Taiwan runs through Taiwan’s Yushan National Park, home to the island’s highest peak. , Mount Jade, and meanders through the mighty Central mountain range.

Along the way, drivers pass through river gorges and alpine lakes, as well as hot springs, hiking trails and gigantic cypress forests.

The highest point is Yakou, at 2,722 meters (8,930 ft) above sea level. The scenic “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 the Taiwan Highway Directorate, which oversees all roads on the island.

This is good news for the private visitor island, which lost tourism revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Taiwan has eased entry restrictions in the past two months and reduced home or hotel quarantine from 10 days to seven days, starting May 9, tourists are still unable to visit. This made internal travel even more vital for local tourism.

The highway reopened to car and motorcycle traffic on May 1, just in time for the busy Labor Day holiday weekend, when many Taiwanese travel locally.

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

From the General Directorate of Highways

The reopening is late.

In the beginning, the reconstructed sections were swept away after typhoons or heavy rain, sending the engineers back to the drawing board.

Eventually, engineers dredged the rock beds deep, built retaining walls from more than 120 shipping containers, installed drainage pipes, and increased vegetation on the slopes to curb landslides and roadbed erosion.

In addition, parts of the highway are so narrow that large construction equipment could not be used.

In some of the more dangerous alpine sections, construction workers often had to cling to cliff slopes with ropes to complete repairs, including setting up nets, spraying concrete, and fixing rafters.

“I guess this is what it means to hang by a thread,” Lin Wen-lung, a construction contractor told local media in April this year.

Due to the difficult conditions, travelers have to abide by some rules.

The popular Yakou will be closed every Tuesday and Thursday and motorists are required to enter the section from 7am to 2pm all other days to minimize the impact on nocturnal animals.

In addition, access is only allowed for vehicles weighing less than 5 tonnes, passenger vehicles with up to nine people and motorcycles.