Authorities in central China's Wuhan City are reviewing builders' bids for a new tunnel beneath the Yangtze River.
It will be the second river tunnel at Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.
Located at the juncture of the Yangtze River and Han River, Wuhan is divided into three towns: Wuchang, where governmental bureaucracies are based and colleges of higher learning are; Hankou, the center of business; and Hanyang, the city's cultural heart.
Traffic relies heavily on the aboveground transportation networks and ferry service which used to be the sole means of crossing the river before October 1957 when the Wuhan highway-railway bridge opened.
"We have been studying bids forwarded by more than 30 companies and the result will be announced by mid-February," said an official from the construction committee of the city, "we have chosen a Shanghai company to be supervisor for the new underwater tunnel."
The projected underwater tunnel, with a designed length of 27.73 km and budget of 14.9 billion yuan (about US$2.04 billion), will start from Jiyuqiao in Wuchang and Fanhu in Hankou. Upon completion, it will become a subway line.
Tunnel construction will start in March if everything goes smoothly, according to the official.
With a population of more than eight million, Wuhan, the most important city on the middle reaches of the Yangtze, is the center of five railway lines, six expressways, and several highways. The city serves as the gateway to China's hinterlands and is nicknamed the "thoroughfare to nine provinces".
In recent years, the city has upped the pace of improving transport infrastructure in a bid to ease clogged roads.
So far, five bridges are in use over the Yangtze in the city, and one more is being built. The construction of another will start in the first half of this year.
Wuhan is still considering its eighth bridge over the Yangtze.
The city has also set aside 110 billion yuan for a track transport network of 220 kilometers. A light-track system, part of the network, opened in 2004.
Construction on the city's first tunnel across the Yangtze, which began in November 2004, has been going smoothly.
The 3,609-meter, four-lane highway tunnel, between the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge and the Second Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge, will connect Wuhan's two major urban parts -- Wuchang and Hankou. It is scheduled to be finished this year.
With a designed speed of 50 km per hour, vehicles can travel through the tunnel in a matter of minutes.
(Xinhua News Agency January 29, 2008)