A recently proposed project to expand the emergency lane of a major pass tunnel in central Vietnam into a main tunnel to cater to bulging traffic flow has raised concerns among local authorities and experts.
Leaders of the Da Nang City People’s Committee on Tuesday worked with Deo Ca Investment JSC on a provisional project to expand Hai Van Tunnel’s emergency lane into a main tunnel.
The Hai Van Pass, one of the country’s most spectacular, meanders along parts of Thua Thien-Hue Province and Da Nang in the central region.
The tunnel which goes through the Hai Van Pass was put into operation in 2005.
According to Ho Minh Hoang, general director of Deo Ca Investment, the project will cost VND6,234 billion ($290.52 million) and is expected to be completed after 36 months.
Under the project, which would be implemented in the form of build-operate-transfer, the current emergency lane which is 6.2 kilometers in length will be turned into a main tunnel with two traffic lanes.
The project will also see the construction of a 2.1km-long path leading to Lang Co Town, located in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, as well as a 4.3km-long path leading to Da Nang.
Hoang added that the Ministry of Transport has allowed his company to do further research on the project.
If approved, the project will kick off in January next year and finish in the first quarter of 2019, Hoang added.
He proposed continuing to use the toll collecting station positioned to the south of the Hai Van Tunnel and expected to be removed next year to recoup investment in the new project, if it is approved.
“The expansion of the tunnel’s emergency lane will be implemented with Austrian technology. The expansion process will not adversely impact the current main tunnel,” Hoang assured.
He added that the emergency lane will still serve as an exit in case of crises during the construction process, as mobile steel frames will be positioned at the digging sites along the lane to ensure ready entry of fire brigades and ambulances.
Meanwhile, Ho Nghia Dung, former Minister of Transport, who is consultant to Deo Ca Investment, pointed out that the investor mobilizes capital for the project instead of using official development assistance (ODA) funds or resources from the state coffers.
Da Nang City’s government should thus propose that the transport ministry approve the project soon and provide assistance for the investor regarding surveying, counseling, and site clearance, Hoang and Dung urged.
Despite the investor’s reassurances, the project has sparked concerns over safety and feasibility issues among local authorities and experts.
Le Van Trung, director of the Da Nang City Department of Transport, said he is supportive of a project to build another tunnel through the Hai Van Pass to cope with the burgeoning traffic volume.
However, he remains concerned as the investor of the project to turn the emergency lane into a main tunnel has yet to take account of its financial resources or potential impacts on the current only main tunnel.
“In my opinion, the investor should consider another option in which the emergency lane would be retained and another main tunnel be built,” Trung stressed.
The project investor, however, has dismissed this option as costly.
Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, deputy chair of the Da Nang City People’s Committee, pointed out that opinions should be sought from Japanese experts, who were involved in the construction of the Hai Van Tunnel in 2005.
The investor should also specify the reasons why they consider expanding the emergency lane.
Nguyen Dinh Bach, general director of Hai Van Tunnel Management and Operation Co., said even after the emergency lane has been turned into another main tunnel, there would be no hindrance to rescue activity in case of emergencies as the current main tunnel and the new one would be connected via horizontal underpasses.
However, Bach is worried that the proposed use of the current toll collecting station, positioned to the south of the Hai Van Tunnel, would meet with objections over the short intervals between several such stations on a 50-kilometer stretch of highway between Hue and Da Nang.
According to Bach, daily traffic flow through the Hai Van Tunnel has exceeded the level Japanese experts had estimated after 10 years of its operation.
The tunnel now receives a daily average of 7,100 rides, compared to the Japanese experts’ estimate of 6,000 rides.