Guizhou expressway adds speed to rural life

China Daily, December 07, 2022
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An aerial photo of part of the Zheng'an-Xishui Expressway in Guizhou province. CHINA DAILY

The Zheng'an-Xishui Expressway in the mountainous province of Guizhou recently won the International Road Federation's Global Road Achievement Award.

Some 130 kilometers in length, the expressway shortens the driving time between the two counties from 10 hours to 1.5 by passing through Tongzi county, and links more than a dozen townships.

"The expressway is a model low-carbon project that takes environmental protection and economic development into full consideration, achieving a win-win scenario," said Wang Duanqing, chief engineer of the road at the China Construction Fourth Engineering Division Company.

The International Road Federation is a global nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, and was established in 1948.

The expressway, which passes through three protected areas and two tourist sites, won the environmental mitigation category in this year's awards.

"We stuck to the principle of putting the environment first. The route was carefully designed to avoid damaging nature," Wang said. "During construction, about 110,000 cubic meters of earth were recycled for use elsewhere, and by using new equipment and technology, we were able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20,000 metric tons."

The expressway is equipped with a smart lighting system that should help reduce electricity consumption by 6 million kilowatt-hours annually.

The environmental challenges came with geological challenges, as well.

The most difficult part of the construction was the Tianchengba tunnel just outside Xianyuan town. It's a coal mining area, and the tunnel passes through six layers of coal, the thickest of which was 13 meters.

"We used Building Information Modeling during design and construction phases to monitor and evaluate the amount of gas to prevent risks," Wang said.

In addition to its environmental significance, the expressway's construction contributes to the local economy in other ways.

Though the counties of Zheng'an, Tongzi and Xishui — located in northern Guizhou near the Wumeng and Wuling mountains — are rich in mineral resources such as sandstone aggregates, they were once poverty-stricken because getting the resources to market was a logistical issue.

"Sandstone aggregate production should rise to 8 million tons next year, and thanks to the expressway, it can easily be transported to other parts of Guizhou and Chongqing, which should bring our town about 32 million yuan ($4.5 million)," said Ji Zhengxing, township official of Songkan in Tongzi.

Zheng'an, which is known for its guitar industry, will also benefit from better transportation.

Construction of the Zheng'an-Xishui Expressway started in late 2016 and was opened to traffic in July last year.

Over the past decade, Guizhou has prioritized the construction of its transportation infrastructure.

By the end of last year, the province had 8,010 km of expressways, four times more than in 2011, according to the provincial transportation bureau.

Shao Xun, head of the transportation bureau, said that receipt of this international award will spur the province to build a stronger and better transportation network.

Zhao Yandi contributed to this story.