Speed limits to be eased in the Hsuehshan Tunnel
TRAFFIC CONGESTION: Officials have agreed in principle to allow motorists to exceed the speed limit within the tunnel by some 10kph before fining them
By Shelley Shan
Thursday, Sep 07, 2006,Page 2

Motorists could soon be allowed to travel a little faster through the Hsuehshan Tunnel after the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, legislators and other officials agreed yesterday that the speed limit was being too strictly enforced.

The speed limit on the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway -- where the tunnel is located -- is 70kph. Outside the tunnel, motorists are allowed to exceed the speed limit by as much as 10kph without being fined. However, once inside the tunnel, motorists who exceed the speed limit by as little as 1kph are fined.

Wu Mu-fu (吳木富), director of the ministry's traffic management department, said the participants at the meeting all agreed that motorists should be given the same leeway regardless of whether they are traveling inside or outside the tunnel.

However, Wu said the new arrangement would have to be approved by the ministry. The traffic regulation regarding the speed limit inside the tunnel would have to be amended, he said, without committing to a specific timeline as to when the policy would take effect.

According to Wu, while officials agreed on the speed issue, they have yet to reach a consensus on others, including whether the following distance between vehicles should be shortened or whether motorists should be allowed to switch lanes when driving inside the tunnel.

Since its official opening in June, the tunnel has proved popular among motorists as it has shortened the traveling time between Taipei and Ilan from two hours to 40 minutes.

However, the tunnel experiences heavy traffic over the weekend as motorists who might previously have taken the Coastal Highway or the Taipei-Ilan Highway now opt to take the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway instead.

The heavy weekend traffic is one of the reasons that legislators and transportation experts have urged the ministry to relax speed-limit enforcement inside the Hsuehshan Tunnel.

The suggestion was rejected by former minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪), who said in a legislative hearing in July that the government would not consider loosening traffic regulations for the Hsuehshan Tunnel because of safety concerns.

The Highway Police Bureau's statistics show that 697 motorists were caught speeding in the tunnel in the last two months.