A new highway linking Vientiane city centre through the That Luang marsh to the 450 Year Road is now accessible as a dirt road, which will later be sealed.
Although the road is still a dustbowl, the people of Nakhuay, Xiengda and Nounvai villages in Xaysettha district use it as a shortcut to reach the city centre.
An official in charge of the project told Vientiane Times on Monday that construction is now 25.2 percent complete after work began last October. The whole project is expected to be finished in 2015.
The new highway links Donnokkhoum village in Sisattanak district to Donkoi village, cutting through the That Luang marsh to Xiengda village in Xaysettha district and the 450 Year Road, over a distance of 9.5 kilometres.
The price tag for the project is about US$76.2 million, of which US$63.8 million is the cost of construction and the remainder is the amount of compensation to be paid to families who lost land and other property to make way for the road.
Authorities have decided to keep the road as narrow as possible to minimise the impact on local residents. For instance, the section between Donnokkhoum and Donkoi will be reduced from 30 metres to 28 metres in width.
The highway will affect 174 land plots in total. Compensation payments have been made to half of the former occupiers of these plots.
The Namtha Road-Bridge Construction Company was authorised to build the road using its own capital and will be repaid once the project is complete.
The company is now levelling and grading the road, with asphalting to begin sometime next year.
The highway will include two bridges across the That Luang and Nakhuay marshes. Streetlights, sidewalks and drainage will be installed.
The project is part of the authorities’ plan to build more roads in the capital to ease traffic congestion and spread development to other parts of the city.
Currently, most businesses are located in the city centre and in the next 10 or 20 years Vientiane could face a raft of social and environmental problems if the urban footprint is not extended.
According to transport officials, the number of vehicles in Vientiane now stands at about 590,000 and is growing by about 20 percent annually so expansion is essential to keep traffic flowing.
Another reason for building the road is to provide access to the industrial zone in the Km 21 area of Xaythany district. The road will also be a major link between Vientiane and the southern provinces. At present, motorists can only use Kaysone Phomvihane Road to travel to or from the south. The new road will help to minimise traffic congestion along this road and in Vientiane as a whole.
published with the permission of Vientiane Times