First expressway across Tengger opened
Part of the Wuhai-Maqin Expressway, opened on Dec 29, stretches across the Tengger desert in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. [Photo by Xu Qing/for China Daily]
The country's first expressway across the Tengger desert was officially opened on Dec 29 in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
Eighteen kilometers of the 122.99-km-long expressway connecting Qingtongxia and Zhongwei pass across the desert, with its undulating terrain, harsh environment and hazards caused by blowing sand.
Many technical problems were solved during construction.
The project drew lessons from construction projects of China's existing desert expressways and adapted to conditions in the heart of the Tengger, according to Wang Jinguo, an executive with the Ningxia Communications Investment Group's project construction and management company.
"We set up a protection system to prevent erosion of the road by wind and sand. It combines a gravel fire prevention belt, an ecological landscape forest belt, a tall vertical sand barrier grid belt, and a sand barrier belt," Wang said. "The outer belts aim to block the sand while the inner ones focus more on sand fixation and landscaping."
The project has helped save nearly 4 million cubic meters of construction materials and 600,000 cu m of water, and its ecological corridor has both engineering and environmental protection functions.
Ningxia transportation authorities conducted research into desert expressway construction technologies based on ecological concepts.
Their systematic study of key technologies of desert expressway construction led to 10 new technological achievements.
The newly opened section is a major north-south transport channel in Ningxia, which now has 2,068 km of expressways.
The two-way, four-lane road has a designed speed of 100 km per hour and reduces driving time from Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, to Zhongwei by half an hour.
"The new expressway connects Shizuishan, an industrial and energy hub in northern Ningxia, with Qingtongxia, a base for new materials," said Li Changjun, director of the construction management division of Ningxia's Department of Transport.
"It also helps divert traffic on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway, and further alleviates transit traffic pressure in Yinchuan."
As a significant part of the Wuhai-Maqin Expressway, which runs from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai provinces, the new expressway creates a second high-speed channel between Yinchuan and Lanzhou in Gansu and connects major cities and townships in Northwest China and along the upper reaches of the Yellow River.
Liang Yuhan contributed to this story.