A sinking feeling

TN News

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Vietnam's first expressway is only further proof that we are suffering from the disease of carelessness.

The Trung Luong-Ho Chi Minh City expressway between the city and the Mekong Delta opened to four-wheeled vehicles in early February, allowing them to drive up to 120 kilometer per hour.

But the road is already sinking after only two months.

It's sad to say it, but that's normal.

Almost no street or bridge in Vietnam doesn't sink. Travelers in Vietnam can only travel via pits and bumps, interrupted every so often by stretches of road.

The Ministry of Transport and the investor of the road, My Thuan Project Management Unit (PMU), even said the road "is sinking within the permitted limits."

They said the same several years ago when Nguyen Huu Canh Street and Van Thanh 2 Bridge in HCMC sank.

But now the street has sunk 0.5- 1.1 meters further than it was designed to do, lowering the tunnel underneath from 2.5 meters to 1.4 meters high and thus making it useless.

We see sinkage as normal and we issue a lazy sinkage limit, so we're lazy with ourselves and waste our country's resources.

Our street and bridge builders are underestimating the importance of dealing with weak soil and preventing sinkage after construction.

People constructing the expressway were reportedly aware of the sinkage before the road was finished but they did nothing as they wanted to speed up the work and earn credit for finishing quickly.

Ho Chi Minh City is full of messy and unsafe infrastructure. But people are familiar with it and they drive 20-30 km/hour without feeling much of an inconvenience.

An expressway is different. What will happen to drivers speeding at 100-120 km/hour on a rough road?

The My Thuan PMU has suggested that the ministry reduce the speed limit at the sunken sections of the expressway. Then the road, which cost VND9.88 trillion (US$535 million) to build, will no longer be an expressway.

Vietnam plans to invest VND350 trillion ($18.5 billion) building expressways through 2020. We'd better change the way we do things before we waste any more money.

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