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Expressways linking with HCMC fail to contain traffic rush

By Hoang Nam, Gia Minh   August 1, 2022 | 09:30 pm PT
All three expressways connecting HCMC with provinces to its southeast and southwest are suffering frequent congestion, unable to handle the high traffic volumes they experience.

On the afternoon of July 30, long lines of cars and trucks clogged the Trung Luong – My Thuan Expressway going from HCMC towards the Mekong Delta. This expressway is an extension of the only major road that connects the city with the region.

Apart from the increase in the traffic volume due to rising travel demand during the weekend, the congestion was also caused by the number of vehicles stopping along the way to get their electronic toll collection (ETC) card. There is no emergency lane on the Trung Luong – My Thuan for drivers to use for this purpose. The government has asked all expressways across the nation to start using the ETC system by Aug. 1.

And because there is no emergency lane, vehicles that break down have nowhere to pull up to, so they stop right on the curb, worsening the traffic jam.

The 51-km Trung Luong – My Thuan Expressway opened to traffic late April after 13 years of construction. It has helped reduce the travel time from HCMC to Tien Giang Province by 75 minutes to one hour and 45 minutes. Due to a change in the investor and issues related to funding, the expressway has opened with no emergency lane. The new investor has promised to build the lane in the second phase, but it's not clear when this will happen.

The newly opened road is already overloaded, serving 30,500 vehicles per day. It was designed to have a capacity of 23,000 by 2025.

Linking with Trung Luong – My Thuan, the HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway is overrun after 12 years of operation. The first of its kind in southern Vietnam, the 62-km long, four-lane HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway has an emergency lane.

An ambulance uses the emergency lane of HCMC  - Trung Luong Expressway to escape the traffic jam on July 30, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

An ambulance uses the emergency lane of HCMC - Trung Luong Expressway to escape the traffic jam on July 30, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Nguyen Van Thanh, head of the Directorate for Roads under Vietnam’s Road Administration Department No.4, which manages the expressway, said since toll collection stopped in January 2019, the number of vehicles using the expressway increased suddenly by more than 35 percent to around 52,000 cars per day, and by more than 50 percent during holidays.

The route, which has four lanes, currently allows cars to run at a speed of 100 kph, but due to congestion, they can only travel at 60-70 kph and slower.

Connecting HCMC with the southeastern region, the HCMC – Long Thanh – Dau Giay Expressway has the largest traffic volume among all expressways in Vietnam, with an average of 45,000-50,000 vehicles per day on normal days and 60,000 per day during holidays.

In recent days, traffic on the expressway has become even more congested as the ETC system is implemented.

The 55-km expressway allows vehicles to run at a maximum of 120 kph, but many drivers take more than three hours to pass.

Long lines of cars and trucks on the HCMC – Long Thanh – Dau Giay Expressway on July 30, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Long lines of cars and trucks on the HCMC – Long Thanh – Dau Giay Expressway on July 30, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Bui Van Quan, chairman of the HCMC Cargo Transport Association, said expressways in southern Vietnam have become overloaded, but drivers do have not many options to choose from as work is yet to begin on many other routes.

Quan said that apart from a lack of roads in the region, there are other inadequacies frustrating transport businesses.

He said authorities should be blamed for the situation of vehicles having to run below the minimum speed on HCMC - Trung Luong Expressway.

"The people and businesses have paid proportionately, so it is not fair that they are not offered the service they deserve," he said.

HCMC and the two provinces of Long An and Tien Giang have all proposed that the width of the HCMC – Trung Luong Expressway be expanded to eight lanes.

A plan has been prepared to expand a 24-km section of HCMC – Long Thanh – Dau Giay Expressway from four to eight lanes.

 
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