Monday , June 17 2024

Work resumes on longest expressway in southern Vietnam

After more than three years’ suspension, construction has restarted on a Ben Luc-Long Thanh Expressway section in Dong Nai Province.

A new contractor has been chosen to complete the section, which is more than 16 km long, said Dang Huu Vi, director of the Southern Expressway Authority, on Wednesday.

The section was one-third complete but work stalled since 2019 after the former contractor refused to continue working due to financing issues.

Vi promised the section would be completed within the second quarter of next year.

The Ben Luc–Long Thanh Expressway runs 57.7 km between Long An Province in the Mekong Delta and Dong Nai industrial hub, passing through Ho Chi Minh City. Once complete, it will be the longest highway in southern Vietnam.

Work started on the VND31 trillion ($1.34 billion) project in 2014 and it was initially set to be completed in five years. However, funding issues delayed it several times.

The project is over 80% complete and work has been stalled since 2019.

The expressway project uses investment loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Asian Development Bank and the Vietnamese government.

Explaining the lateness, the state-run Vietnam Expressway Corporation in charge of the project said that several construction packages had been stalled as contractors had refused to continue working due to funding issues, although the site clearance process had been completed.

Inspecting a section of the project in HCMC’s Binh Chanh District in March, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha said investment capital was no longer a problem, but administrative procedures were an issue.

The Commission for the Management of State Capital at Enterprises agreed in November 2021 for the VEC to use the toll fees it had collected temporarily and several other reserves to pay the debts it owes contractors.

“VEC earns money from toll collections on other expressways across the country, and that sum has been deposited at banks so it’s not reasonable when it says it has no funds to build this [expressway],” Ha said. “That toll fee is also the state budget.”

Last June, the VEC asked the government’s permission to extend its completion deadline from 2023 to the third quarter of 2025. Four months later, National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue ordered the project’s investor to finish it in 2024.

He said the expressway was an important route of the Southern Key Economic Zone, which comprises HCMC and seven provinces.

It will connect to Dong Nai’s Long Thanh Airport, which is under construction to replace HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport as Vietnam’s biggest.

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