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The expressway that kicked off China's transport dreams

( ) 2021-04-07
The expressway that kicked off China's transport dreams

Zhang Kuihong(left), deputy chief engineer of the Hujia Expressway project, tells the story of the construction of the project in Shanghai, on Tuesday. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/]

Over the past decades, China's relentless efforts to improve its transportation system has resulted in it becoming the home to the world's largest expressway network spanning 160,000 km, Wang Songbo, deputy director of the comprehensive planning department of the Ministry of Transport, announced during an event in Shanghai on Tuesday.

Among the most notable feats in the construction of the nation's transport infrastructure, authorities noted, is Shanghai's Hujia Expressway, the first national highway project in the Chinese mainland.

The 15.9-kilometer expressway, which links downtown Shanghai with Jiading district in the northwest, was opened to traffic in October 1988.

Among the attendees at the event was Zhang Kuihong, deputy chief engineer of the Hujia Expressway project, who recalled that he had the chance to speak about the route to a local TV station while on a helicopter ride.

"Building the expressway was necessary at that time. The domestic economy was starting to boom after the reform and opening-up in 1978, and products like chicken, fish and shrimp need to be transported from the suburbs to Shanghai's downtown area through roads. However, before the highway was built, people needed two hours to travel between the two areas," the 79-year-old said.

The proposal to build the expressway was meant with resistance, Zhang added, as some people believed that it would cost too much. Others argued that it would be pointless to build an expressway as the nation's automobile industry was still underdeveloped.

But following extensive research, the government backed the implementation of the Hujia Expressway pilot project. Construction began in 1984.

"Because of the highway, the commute time from downtown Shanghai to Jiading was reduced to just 30 minutes. This accelerated the development of the city's economy and tourism," said Zhang.

He noted that the highway also helped facilitate the establishment of an industrial park in Taopu town and an ancient town for tourism in Nanxiang town, as well as the development of Jiading.

"I feel so proud to be able to witness these achievements brought by the highway," he said.



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