Construction of a second road across the Taklimakan desert in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has entered the final stage, and its builders said on Tuesday the 424-km highway will open to traffic on October 1.
The highway will link the towns of Hotan and Aral, crossing a span of blowing desert sands wracked by extremes of heat and cold.
The 790 million yuan (US$101 million) project, launched by the Chinese central government in 2005, is expected to facilitate cargo and passenger transport between the resource-rich, densely populated Hotan City in southern Xinjiang and Aral, an underdeveloped new city on the northern edge of China's largest desert.
The new highway will also speed up transportation of Hotan's ample farm produces to Aksu, a pivotal land port, and further on to the cities of Xi'an and Lanzhou, said Li Lixin, an official in charge of the road project.
The first highway across the Taklimakan, running 522 kilometers from Lunnan in the north to Minfeng county in the south, was inaugurated in 1995. But vehicles bound for Aksu had to make a detour along the westernmost border of the desert.
"It took two and a half days to drive from Hotan to Aksu," said Li. "With the new road it takes 10 hours."