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US$208 Mln Loan for Hunan Expressway Project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Saturday it has approved US$208 million in a loan for a 64-km-long expressway project in central China's Hunan Province.

Jishou-Chadong Expressway aims to spur economic growth in Hunan's rural and mountainous Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture, where economic growth has been stunted due to limited road access, by linking the area to the Changsha-Chongqing Highway, one of the key traffic passages in the western regions, the bank said in a statement.

The project covers one city and four counties in which 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas and more than three quarters of the people are ethnic minorities.

Eunkyung Kwon, an ADB senior transport economist, said improved transportation will increase income opportunities from cash crop farming or seasonal work involving migration, promote more contact with urban centers, and make trips to markets and social services easier.

Traffic on the expressway is forecast to more than double from 6,000 annual average daily traffic in 2010 to 12,650 in 2019, or an average annual increase of 8 percent.

The project involves construction of 64 km of toll expressway from Jishou to Chadong, including a large suspension bridge, 13 tunnels, 36 other large bridges, interchanges, toll stations, and service areas.

Aside from the expressway, the project will also upgrade 129 km of local roads, improve access to 52 poor villages, and provide consulting services and training to enhance the quality of construction, asset management, local road maintenance, transport services, and road safety.

The ADB loan has a 25-year term, including a grace period of five years.

The total project cost is US$519.51 million, with partial financing from China's Ministry of Communications, the Hunan provincial government and the China Development Bank. The project will be managed by the Hunan provincial communications department.

Since 1991, ADB has extended 31 loans totaling US$6.2 billion to finance 4,391 km of expressways and 8,237 km of local road networks in China. ADB has also supplied 54 technical assistance packages totaling US$28.3 million to the road sector.

(Xinhua News Agency December 18, 2005)

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