Monday, Jul 04, 2022

Taiwan's Spectacular Southern Cross-Island Highway Reopens After 13 Years

Also known as Provincial Highway Number 20, it was closed in 2009 after Typhoon Morakot severely damaged it

A spectacular view from Taiwan's Southern Cross-Island Highway
A spectacular view from Taiwan's Southern Cross-Island Highway Shutterstock

Before it was closed in 2009, Taiwan's Southern Cross-Island Highway was one of the most scenic routes in the country. This 208-km-long road, from Tainan to Guanshan Township in the Taitung County, took one past you pristine lakes, hot springs, hiking trails, cypress woods and some of the most picturesque, rural parts of the countryside. Moreover, this alpine highway passed through the Yushan National Park, which offered sights of the country's highest peak, Mount Jade. All of these attractions once made it one of the country's most popular highways that could best be explored while gliding along at a speed of 30 to 40 kmph.

Road-trip enthusiasts will be glad to know that after a long period of 13 years spent in repairing the damage caused by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and subsequent heavy rainfalls in 2012 (both of which led to entire portions of the highway getting swept away in landslides), the highway was finally reopened to the public in early May 2022. According to CNN, more than 90% of the road had been damaged and 22 bridges washed away. Ever since, the road has gone through several reconstructions, and is now finally ready. On the first day of reopening, more than 5,800 vehicles reportedly entered the highway.

Wang Ching-hsiung, a maintenance director at the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH), in conversation with Focus Taiwan, said, “The Southern Cross-Island Highway is an alpine highway for people pursuing lifestyles of health and sustainability (LOHAS).” Wang added that the reopening of the road, which was built in 1968 and opened in 1972, is expected to boost local tourism once again. The reopening of the road will help in reviving the economy as well. For the same article, Chang Hung-yun, owner of the Chief Spa Hotel, situated on the east end of the Southern Cross-Island Highway said that after Typhoon Morakot, tourists fell by more than 90 percent, and she could barely pay her employees. “This is the first time the hotel has been fully booked for a month since the highway was closed (13) years ago,” Wang stated.

To make the journey sustainable, however, people should start looking for more environment-friendly travel methods. Chen Cheng-wei, DGH maintenance director, said that road maintenance is likely to become increasingly difficult with extreme weather conditions in future. He said,” If a road needs a break, then let it take a break. Human beings cannot fight against nature, we should work with it.”

Strict restrictions have, however, been implemented. The Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) stated that the Tienchi to Hsiangyang section will be closed all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that motorists will have to enter the section between 7 am to 2 pm on other days. Along with this, other limitations on the 20-km section also have to be followed. According to the MOTC, "Only vehicles under 5 metric tonnes in weight, passenger vehicles with up to nine people and motorcycles are allowed access to the section."