Congestion takes its toll on bridge
GUANGZHOU: Drivers looking forward to the end of construction fees for crossing Luoxi Bridge in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, may now be slapped with another charge to alleviate congestion.
Construction loans for the bridge are expected to be fully paid off in June but sources with the Price Control Administration of Guangzhou said yesterday they are considering congestion charges.
Usually, road and bridge tolls can only be collected to pay off construction loans, according to Chinese road toll administrative regulations.
"Congestion charges, as one of the effective means of managing urban transportation, can alleviate congestion through adjusting traffic flow and raise additional revenue for the city," said Qiu Yitong, vice-director of the administration.
Traffic congestion has become a headache for the city in recent years and Luoxi Bridge is no exception considering its status as a major transport link between the urban centre of Guangzhou and Panyu District in the southern part of the city.
At present, the bridge carries nearly 65,000 vehicles per day, nearly double its designed handling capacity of 35,000.
If there are no charges levied on vehicles passing over the bridge, the traffic situation will just get worse, Qiu said.
The bridge, also an important link for major cities in the Pearl River Delta, has not been renovated or repaired since its opening.
Therefore, in Qiu's opinion, the ever-increasing traffic burden of the bridge will lead to safety issues.
"The congestion fee is one of the effective ways of solving such problems of traffic jams and poor safety," said Qiu.
The bridge, built in 1988 with investment from the municipal government and Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung, was listed as one of the top 10 national bridges at an academic conference in May last year in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province.
The city's price control department, together with the Communications Commission of Guangzhou, will jointly hold a hearing on May 26, to decide whether to implement the new toll.
The organizers will invite a number of the city's residents to the hearing to get a feel for public opinion.
A debate has raged for years over the levying of bridge tolls.
However, Li Xianrong, a resident of Panyu District, said the new fee seems to be acceptable.
"If the congestion charges really ease the traffic problems, it will be acceptable," he said.
Li drives over Luoxi Bridge to work in the city every day and pays 5 yuan (60 US cents) for each crossing.
(China Daily 05/13/2005 page3)