Heightened New Year travel, shopping demand create traffic jam near HCMC airport

By Gia Minh   December 29, 2023 | 04:23 pm PT
Heightened New Year travel, shopping demand create traffic jam near HCMC airport
Vehicles are stuck in traffic near Cong Hoa Road, HCMC, December 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh
Heightened year-end travel and shopping demands, along with ongoing construction, have been jamming traffic at several entrances to HCMC's Tan Son Nhat Airport.

Over the past few days, vehicles have been getting stuck on the roads leading towards the entrance of the airport in Tan Binh District, even when it's not rush hour.

At the Lang Cha Ca roundabout, the intersection point of Tran Quoc Hoan, Cong Hoa, Hoang Van Thu and Thang Long, a sea of vehicles can be seen moving inch by inch on the roads. Cars lined up in rows, as thousands of motorbikes try to squeeze through one another on the busy streets.

Several people had to spend long periods of time under the sun in the heat.

"During normal days, this section is already crowded as it is. But while congestion usually happens during peak hours in the morning and the afternoon, today this happens at noon as well. It's suffocating," said Nguyen Lanh, 36, who lives in District 12.

The most severely jammed road is the Cong Hoa route. The street allows vehicles to run at 60 kph, but it has been taking Lanh over 30 minutes to traverse a 3-km section in the last few days, from the Lang Cha Ca roundabout to Truong Chinh Street.

"For an office worker like me, who leaves in the morning and returns in the afternoon, Cong Hoa Street is truly the stuff of congestion nightmares," he said.

Cong Hoa is the main route connecting District 12, Tan Phu and Tan Binh Districts with downtown areas and the Tan Son Nhat Airport. Traffic volumes on the road however have exceeded 110% of its designed capacity, according to data from the HCMC Urban Traffic Management and Control.

The Cong Hoa-Hoang Hoa Tham intersection in particular is a new congestion hotspot, even when there’s already an overpass in the area. Re-routing measures in the morning and the afternoon cannot resolve the issue, simply due to the sheer number of vehicles involved.

Similarly, the Lang Cha Ca roundabout and the Tran Quoc Hoan-Phan Thuc Duyen intersection next to the Hoang Van Thu park are also congestion hotspots.

In the first 11 months of this year, the two locations have seen hundreds of congestion cases, according to the Department of Transport. An ongoing construction site for a tunnel of the Tran Quoc Hoan-Cong Hoa connective road project has also contributed to congestion.

Meanwhile, the number of visitors coming to Tan Son Nhat Airport has also been rising, back to average levels in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

In the first 10 months of this year, the number of visitors had reached over 34 million, a 22% increase from the same period last year. As Tet approaches, the airport is expected to see around 135,000-140,000 visitors a day, making traffic even more burdensome.

Nguyen Van Binh, deputy head of the road-railway traffic police division under the HCMC police, said that besides the fact that traffic density would be high as year-end shopping and travel demands rise, areas around the airport are full of offices and service centers, making traffic congestion virtually unavoidable.

Binh said units have requested the airport to update the number of daily visitors as well as deploying re-routing and parking measures to prepare for the influx of Tet traffic.

"Traffic police forces, along with police forces of Tan Binh, Go Vap and Phu Nhuan districts will monitor from afar and restrict vehicles from entering congested locations if something happens," he said, adding that the airport has a quick-response team ready to resolve issues.

Since the beginning of this year, over 140 incidents regarding infrastructure and signal lights have been resolved, preventing congestions from worsening, he added.

A representative of the transport department said that besides overloaded infrastructures, lack of traffic etiquettes have also contributed to congestion.

The Tan Son Nhat area has been invested with five overpasses, along with an expansion of Cong Hoa Road to deal with congestion.

However, the transport department said a more effective solution is a public transport system with high capacity connecting with the airport, and the completion of the Tran Quoc Hoan-Cong Hoa connective road.

The connective road project, costing over $197.5 million, is expected to be operational next year. Besides connecting with the T3 terminal, the project would also create a new route to gain access to the airport.

As the project is ongoing, the transport department is looking into measures to restrict truck access to the Tan Son Nhat area to alleviate congestion.

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