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October 15, 2009

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Road link to Chongming ready to roll

TRAFFIC will finally begin to flow on the last day of this month over the long-awaited bridge and tunnel network linking Shanghai's downtown with Chongming Island.

The new road connection will make life easier for the 700,000 people who live in Chongming County and for the countless downtown residents who visit for work and leisure.

It is also sure to spur further development in the county and, when another road link is completed to the north, enhance commerce between Shanghai and northern Jiangsu Province.

But progress, some critics point out, may come at a price. The island, now home to a major Asia region sanctuary for migratory birds, is likely to become more crowded and perhaps more polluted, they say.

Officials announced yesterday that the Changjiang tunnel-bridge expressway complex, which cost nearly 12.6 billion yuan (US$1.85 billion) to build, will open to traffic on October 31.

"We have been waiting for such a traffic project for generations," an excited islander told Shanghai Daily yesterday during a special visit for local media.

The tunnel-bridge project, which goes by the Chinese name for the Yangtze River, links Chongming Island to the Pudong New Area via the sparsely populated Changxing Island over a 25.5-kilometer toll expressway.

It has two segments: an 8.9-kilometer tunnel between Pudong and Changxing Island and a 10.3-kilometer bridge from Changxing to Chongming.

With an 80 kilometer-per-hour speed limit inside the tunnel and a 100-kph limit on the cable-stay bridge, a car ride from Shanghai's downtown to Chongming Island will take a little longer than an hour.

In the past, travelers had to take ferries between the two points on trips that could last for more than two hours.

And in bad weather when ferries were cancelled there was no connection at all.

Tunnel tolls for cars will be 20 yuan and bridge tolls 30 yuan. Transit buses, expected to begin service next month, will not have to pay tolls.

Space has been left for a possible future extension of the city's Metro Line 9 to the island, though a construction schedule has not yet been approved by national authorities.

The tunnel-bridge complex is also part of a broader plan to establish a fast traffic connection between Shanghai and the northern part of neighboring Jiangsu Province in an effort to boost commercial ties.

An expressway is now being built to connect Chongming Island to Qidong, a Jiangsu city. It is expected to be finished in two years.

Not everyone is excited about the new traffic link, however. "All human behavior causes a negative impact on the environment," said Zou Chunjing, a professor in the Life Science Department at East China Normal University who monitors the Chongming Island natural habitat.

Waste production and carbon emissions on Chongming Island will surely increase with an anticipated influx of vehicles and tourists, Zou said.

Other experts are worried that the future link to Jiangsu Province will give rise to even more vehicular pollution.

In response to such concerns, Zhao Qi, Chongming County director, said yesterday the government will step up protection of its "ecological" economy and focus on reducing pollution.

"For example, we closed 20 operations producing heavy waste last year. And we plan to terminate at least 40 more businesses by the end of this year," Zhao told a news conference yesterday.

The environmental impact caused by the expressway to Chongming Island would be "endurable," the county director said.


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