The construction of the 113.50km expressway linking Vientiane and Vangvieng is now over 70 per cent complete and authorities expect an official handover ceremony to take place at the end of this year.
Head of the Management Committee of the Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway, Khattiyasack Chaiyavong, told Vientiane Times.
“The project is now 71.03 per cent complete. We expect to officially hand it over and open the road to traffic before National Day on Dec 2 this year.
“We have laid the first layer of asphalt on more than 50km of the road and the excavation of a tunnel through Phoupha Mountain has been completed. We are currently installing electricity,” he said.
Construction of the expressway began at the end of 2018 and was initially scheduled to finish in 2021 but will be completed this year, Mr Khattiyasack added.
The road, which includes twin tunnels almost 900 metres long through Phoupha Mountain, will shorten the route by 43km compared to using the existing Road No 13 North.
People who use the expressway will be required to pay a fee, but can continue to travel on Road No 13 North free of charge.
The expressway toll will be 550 kip per kilometre, amounting to about 62,000 kip for a one-way trip between Vientiane and Vangvieng.
Chinese investors will operate the expressway under a 50-year concession agreement, with the total cost likely to be US$1.2 billion. The Laos government holds a 5 per cent stake in the project.
The expressway is being built parallel to Road No 13 North and the under-construction Laos-China railway. It will link Sikeuth village in Naxaithong district, Vientiane, to Vangvieng district.
Speeds on the expressway are designated at 100km per hour on flat terrain from Sikeuth village to Phonhong district in Vientiane province, and 80km per hour through the more mountainous section between Phonhong and Vangvieng districts.
With motorists able to travel at higher speeds on the expressway, officials say the journey between Vientiane and Vangvieng will be much quicker than at present.
A project development agreement was signed in 2017 during a state visit to Laos by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway is the first section of a planned expressway from the capital through the northern provinces to Boten in Luang Namtha province, which borders on China. – The Vientiane Times/Asian News Network