​Serious congestion frustrates commuters on southern Vietnam expressway

While the expressway’s speed limit sits at a lofty 120km per hour, vehicles battling weekend traffic typically inch along at 10kph

Vehicles are stuck in endless traffic on the expressway connecting Ho Chi Minh City and Long Thanh District, Dong Nai Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A congested expressway in southern Vietnam is frustrating travelers who depend on the thoroughfare to ease their commute.

The construction of Long Thanh International Airport in the namesake district in Dong Nai Province, about 40 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, is causing bumper to bumper traffic in the area.

The most serious of these congestion problems takes place on an expressway connecting Ho Chi Minh and Long Thanh, with commuters finding themselves trapped in hours-long gridlock each weekend.

According to an observation by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters, endless lines of vehicles stretched endlessly down the expressway beginning at the Long Phuoc toll station in District 9.

“We pay a toll for the expressway just to be caught in traffic jams even more severe than on regular roads,” a car driver complained.

Truck drivers who depend on the route also complain that the bottleneck is causing them to fall behind schedule.

During the weekend, it usually takes an hour to travel the three-kilometer section, Nguyen Van Phu, a regular commuter, added.

While the designated speed of the expressway is 120km per hour, traffic jams often slow vehicles to no more than 10km per hour.

Congestion also occurs at the road's entrance near the An Phu traffic knots, the meeting points of Luong Dinh Cua, Mai Chi Tho, and Nguyen Thi Dinh Streets in District 2.

According to the Vietnam Expressway Services Engineering JSC (VEC E), the number of vehicles traveling on the expressway in the first half of 2017 increased by 17 percent year-on-year.

That number means that 43,000 vehicles per day are using the roadway on weekends and up to 73,000 on major holidays, such as the Lunar New Year, placing immense pressure on the traffic infrastructure.

Bottlenecks often occur at five hotspots along the road, including the Long Phuoc toll station, the An Phu traffic knots, Long Thanh Bridge, and two more, VEC E said.

Speaking with Tuoi Tre, Nguyen Bon, an official from the Dong Nai Traffic Safety Committee, attributed that main reason for the congestion to the unsuitable placement of toll stations along the expressway.

Congestion on the Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh Expressway. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Congestion on the Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh Expressway. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Solutions

Several measures have been proposed to combat the problem but a suitable solution has yet to be agreed upon by authorities and local citizens.

In late 2016, the Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC), which owns VEC E, suggested that toll rates be decreased during off-peak hours and increased during peak-hours.

According to Mai Tuan Anh, chairman of VEC’s board of directors, the Ministry of Transport did not approve the solution.

Another petition by VEC E to detour vehicles to another route received negative feedback from commuters who noted the new route would have been much longer and still congested.

Several temporary solutions have also been mobilized to alleviate the issue, said Nguyen Viet Tan, director of VEC E.

Le Minh Triet, director of the Management Center of Saigon River Tunnel, said traffic lights in the area will be reorganized at streets near the An Phu traffic knot in District 2.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee also requested that the transport ministry spend VND1 trillion (US$43.7 million) on flyovers and underpasses in the area.

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