A section of National Highway 1 in Tien Giang Province has become heavily congested at weekends, causing long delays to journeys between Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta region.
While the situation can only be alleviated by the construction of a new expressway and the expansion of local bridges, these projects remain delayed or nowhere close to completion.
The Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Expressway connecting the southern metropolis with Chau Thanh District in Tien Giang has allowed four-wheeled vehicles to shorten their journeys.
However, in order to proceed to other provinces in the Mekong Delta, vehicles have no other choice than to continue traveling on National Highway 1.
The trip includes negotiating several narrow sections and bridges, some of which are under construction, resulting in traffic gridlock and a high risk of accidents.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters spent the previous weekend on a passenger bus running from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta and were caught in a serious bottleneck.
Many passengers were already infuriated as the vehicle had been traveling at snail's pace.
Workers carry out renovations to a bridge along National Highway 1 in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang. Photo: Tuoi Tre
“These traffic jams happen every weekend and often last over an hour. Traveling in the opposite direction results in the same situation,” Vu Minh Tam, driver of the passenger bus, said.
A journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho City, normally lasting three and a half hours, can take up to six hours to finish due to the congestion, Tam explained.
The problem can be even worse if a traffic accident occurs on the road, the driver added.
According to Tran Van Cam, driver of another coach, weekend traffic jams have caused hours of delays, affecting the schedule of his passengers.
“Some passengers have complained to my operators,” Cam said. “But this is the only road to travel on.”
Problem to persist until 2019
Local traffic police units have been regularly tasked with controlling the traffic in a bid to curb the congestion.
According to Tran Van Bon, director of the Tien Giang Department of Transport, the severe gridlock has been caused by construction on four local bridges.
Tran Van Bon, director of the Tien Giang Department of Transport, inspects the construction on the Thong Luu Bridge. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The most acute issue is the result of renovation work on the Thong Luu Bridge as vehicles can only travel in two lanes.
Upon Bon’s demand to expedite the construction, Nguyen Phu Hiep, developer of the project, promised that the work would be finished by the end of March.
However, National Highway 1 also consists of nine other bridges in the province, many of which have been seriously degraded, posing the threat of traffic accidents and bottlenecks, Bon continued.
The official expressed his concern over the upcoming project to renovate several sections of the highway, leaving only one lane for vehicles to travel in, which will surely exacerbate the current congestion nightmare.
A proposal to build four new bridges at an estimated cost of VND500 billion (US$21.9 million) is under review, and it is believed to relieve traffic pressure on the highway.
Such construction will take approximately 18 months to complete, meaning that the problem may only be eliminated by 2019, Bon said.
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