Definitions

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Highway system in Taiwan

Highways in Taiwan are classified into four types:

  1. National highways: 1 - 10
  2. Provincial highways: 1 - 28, 61 - 88
  3. County routes: 101 - 205
  4. Township routes

The numbering system

As a general rule, the odd numbers represent north-south highways and even numbers represent east-west. The numbers increase moving west to east and north to south. Major north-south provincial highways are indicated by a one-digit number. Spurs of a highway use the same number, followed by a heavenly stem character. However, for English translation, these characters are replaced by letters in the alphabetical order.

National highways

History

Generally speaking, national highways are freeways. The construction of the national highways began in 1971 and its design is heavily based on the American Interstate Highway System. The Northern section between Keelung City and Jhongli City was completed in 1974. The construction of the first freeway (No. 1) was completed in 1978. The freeway runs from the northern harbor Keelung to the southern harbor Kaohsiung. There was an 8.6 km branch (No. 1A) connecting the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Construction began on the other freeways in the late 1980s. The north section of the second north-south freeway (No. 3) between Hsichih City and Hsinchu City was completed in 1997. The No. 1A Branch was extended to link No. 3 Freeway at Yingge, Taipei and renamed as No. 2 Freeway. Three other short freeways (No. 4, No. 8, and No. 10) were built to link the two north-south freeways in Taichung County, Tainan County, and Kaohsiung County, respectively. The entire No. 3 Freeway was completed in January, 2004.

To ease the congestion of No. 1 Freeway in the Taipei metropolitan area, a 20 km elevated bridge was built in 1997 on top of the original freeway between Sijhih City and Wugu, Taipei to serve as a bypass for traffic not exiting/entering the freeway within the boundaries of the City of Taipei.

The construction of a freeway connecting the Taipei metropolitan area and Yilan County began in 1991 and was completed in June 2006. It includes a 12.9 km tunnel (Syueshan Tunnel), which is the fifth longest road tunnel in the world. An extension from Yilan County to Hualian County is planned. However, its construction is being delayed by environmental concerns.

Features

Mileage, exits, and entrances

Every one tenth of a kilometer is marked on the freeway with Arabic numerals to indicate freeway mileage; that is, the number of kilometers away from the northern end or western end of the freeway. Exit numbers are based on the freeway mileage. With the notable exception of exit-only signs which are only expressed in Chinese (but with a right arrow indicating an exit-only lane), exit notification and system route reminder signs in the ROC freeway system are almost identical to their US counterparts.

There are four types of exit notification signs. The first notification sign appears two kilometers before the exit, providing the destination name and an "Exit 2 km" notice. The second sign appears one kilometer before the exit, providing the destination name and a "Right Lane" notice. The "Right Lane" notice warns the exiting driver to start switching to the right lane in preparation to exit and does not necessarily indicate that the right lane is an exit only lane. The third sign appears a few hundred meters before the exit, providing the destination name and a right tilted arrow. The fourth sign is located at the exit and says "Exit" with a tilted right arrow.

Exit notification signs were slightly altered in December 2005. The green exit mileage label on top of the exit notification sign has been replaced with a yellow exit mileage label accompanied with the Chinese code name of the interchange. The Chinese code name of the interchange does not necessarily reflect the destinations listed on the exit signs and may represent the general location of the freeway interchange.

Long rectangular-dash dividers usually separate normal lanes. Short rectangular-dash dividers usually indicates a lane that is ready to turn into an exit, a merging lane, or a lane reserved for vehicles that have difficulty climbing high grade regions of the freeway.

Freeway entrances may have traffic lights to control the flow of vehicles entering the freeway.

Speed limit

The speed limit for cars on Taiwan's freeways range from 70 km/h (roughly 45 mph) on Freeway No. 5 (north of Toucheng, Yilan) to 110 km/h (roughly 70 mph) on Freeway No. 3 (south of Tucheng, Taipei). The speed limit for trucks are usually 10 km/h lower. In non-traffic jam conditions, a vehicle must travel at least 60 km/h (roughly 35 mph).

Speed limits are enforced through radar activated cameras that take pictures of speed-violating cars. Because of protests from speed violators, yellow warning signs are given in advance in Chinese of approaching radar activated cameras. Despite these warnings, speed violators continue to be captured by cameras.

Following distances

As tailgating poses serious hazards of rear-ending, Article 6 of the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation (zh:高速公路及快速公路交通管制規則) requires the following minimum following distances when the weather is fine:
Speed Minimum distance per large vehicle
(大型車)
Minimum distance per small vehicle
(小型車)
60 km/h 40 m 30 m
70 km/h 50 m 35 m
80 km/h 60 m 40 m
90 km/h 70 m 45 m
100 km/h 80 m 50 m
110 km/h 90 m 55 m
Longer following distance is required in the Hsuehshan Tunnel.

Traveling through tunnels

In the tunnel portions of freeways, lane change is prohibited when the lane divider consists of two parallel undashed lines, used when lane change is considered unsafe should a collision cause a vehicular fire. Headlights must be turned on when traveling through tunnels; this is enforced by special cameras. Unlawful lane change or failure to turn on headlights in a tunnel is subject to an administrative fine of 3000 new Taiwan dollars.

Additional restrictions apply for the Hsuehshan Tunnel on Freeway No. 5, which is the longest tunnel in the entire system.

Prohibited traffic

Article 19 of the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation prohibits uses of and entries onto the freeways by:

  1. Pedestrians.
  2. Military troops marching or conducting drills.
  3. Non-motorized vehicles
  4. Motorcycles (see also Restrictions on motorcycle use on freeways#Taiwan for more information).
  5. Three-wheel motor vehicles or motorized pedicabs.
  6. Farm machineries.
  7. Motorized machineries not being motor vehicles.
  8. Towed vehicles not disabled on the freeways or expressways.

Toll station

Toll stations are located every thirty to forty kilometers on the North-South freeways, No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5. Most toll stations collect tolls on both direction of the traffic. The exceptions are Sijhih Toll Station on Freeway No. 1 since January 1998 and Cidu Toll Station on Freeway No. 3 since its opening on October 2000, where only the northbound traffic is subject to the regular toll.

There are no freeway exits once a toll station notification sign appears, making it necessary for the driver to be familiar with the locations of the toll stations in advance, unless an exit is very close before a toll station, such as northbound Sijhih Interchange (10 km) shortly before Sijhih Toll Station (9 km). U-turns on freeways are unlawful and dangerous. All toll stations also have weigh stations where truckers must be weighed when tolls are collected.

Some people who know the final exit before a toll station will deliberately shunpike, i.e. exit the freeway before the station and re-enter the freeway after the station. However, most people find this to be an inconvenience and just pay the toll, unless they know a major traffic problem that will make staying on the freeway much slower. Certain overweight truckers without proper permits also shunpike as they will be fined at the weigh stations.

Toll booth operators only collect prepaid tickets on the left lanes of the station; cash and tickets are collected on the right lanes. "No-change lanes" for small vehicles where toll collectors would not make changes have been replaced by tickets only lanes in September 1996 to speed up traffic. Tickets are available at convenience stores, post offices, and service plazas on the tollway.

Separate toll lanes are for separate types of vehicles. Small vehicles use most lanes. Heavy trucks (trucks with over 3500 kg in gross weight), buses (passenger vehicles with 10 or more seats including the drivers), and combination vehicles (vehicles towing trailers with over 750 kg in gross weight, mostly semitrailers) must keep right to use designated toll lanes only.

Taishan Toll Station was the first to start tolling in July 1974. The toll rates are based on different types of vehicles. The historical rates in new Taiwan dollars have been:

Date range Toll per small vehicle
(小型車)
Toll per heavy truck
(大貨車)
Toll per bus
(大客車)
Toll per combination vehicle
(聯結車)
Since freeway opening 15 20 30 30
Since July 1981 25 30 40 40
Since September 1991 40 50 50 65

A toll violation is considered a serious traffic offense, subject to an administrative fine of 3000 new Taiwan dollars, and includes:

  • Purposely evading toll payment.
  • Using improper toll lanes, such as:
    • Not handing in prepaid tickets in left lanes where cash is not accepted.
    • Driving a large vehicle into a small vehicle lane, considered very dangerous.
    • Driving a small vehicle into a large vehicle lane, also considered dangerous.

When Sijhih Toll Station of National Highway No. 1 collected two-way tolls, there were protests against southbound tolls while it has been just 9.4 km from the northern terminal in Keelung. That station stopped collecting southbound tolls in January 1998, but northbound tolls have remained unchanged.

As Jutian Toll Station is at 411.3 km from the northern terminal but the southern terminal in Linbian, Pingtung is marked 430.5 km, there have been protests organized by pan-blue legislatures on Saturday, May 1, 2004 and Sunday, November 21, 2004 against tolling traffic in both directions. On January 17, 2005, the National Policy Foundation has studied that Jutian Toll Station should drop northbound tolls, but the Freeway Bureau still collects two-way tolls there. Since tolls are mostly manually collected, tolling has been suspended for certain major holidays as announced to reduce congestion at the toll booths. Starting February 10, 2006, the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system is offered as a fast and convenient method to pay the toll. However, the system has been under controversy.

Service and Rest Areas

Freeway service and rest areas start appearing south of Taoyuan City on the No. 1 and No. 3 freeways. Most rest areas provide gas stations, gift shops, convenience stores, and food courts. The Cingshuei rest area located on the 172.4 km mileage marker of National Highway No. 3 is so popular that visitors can only park for 45 minutes and prohibited from barbecuing.

List of national highways

There are seven national highways as of 2004. They are administered by the National Freeway Bureau.

Route under construction is:

Provincial highways

Provincial highways (of Taiwan Province) are administered by Directorate General of Highways under Department of Transportation and Communications since 1999. Before the mid-1990s, the numbers of provincial highways were limited to 1 - 27. In the 1992, 12 east-west expressways and the West-Coast Expressway, indicated by a number greater than 60, were planned to ease the congestion in the freeways. Some of these expressways are still under construction.

Provincial expressways use exit notification signs that appeared on the national freeways prior to 2006.

Officially, provincial highways are now known as Taiwan highways. However, many people still refer to them as provincial roads (省道 sheng-dao). The following is a list of all provincial highways as of 2 August 2006:

Other than expressways

Expressways

Since July 1, 2006, the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation (zh:高速公路及快速公路交通管制規則) applies the same traffic rules on the freeways to the expressways, including the same prohibited traffic and following distances. While motorcycles remain generally banned from the expressways, Article 19 of the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation makes it officially possible to allow a motorcycle with a cylinder capacity of more than 250 cm3 or with an electric power of more than 40 horsepower on certain expressways subject to the following restrictions:

  1. No sharing the same lane to drive side-by-side with or to overtake another vehicle, not even another motorcycle.
  2. No passengers.
  3. Headlight on at all times.

A trial program to allow a motorcycle with a cylinder capacity of more than 250 cm3 or with an electric power of more than 40 horsepower on Provincial Highway No. 68 and Provincial Highway No. 72 was started in January 2005 for one year. This trial program was extended for one year. On Sunday, July 2, 2006, more than 1500 Taiwanese motorcyclists took the streets in Taipei City to demand more open highways while Provincial Highways 68 and 72 remained the only Taiwanese expressways open to very powerful motorcycles.

Effective Thursday. November 1, 2007, a motorcycle with a cylinder capacity of at least 550 cm3 may be driven on expressways but not freeways yet. This major change has resulted in mixed reactions.

County routes

County routes are numbered from 101 to 205 since the numbered highways in Penghu (Pescadores) are incorporated into the system. The lowest number 101 is in Taipei. The route numbers generally increase moving north to south. Routes 201 to 205 are in Penghu.

Township routes

A township route is prefixed the abbreviation of the county in a Chinese character where it is located. The sample signs above show Hsinchu Routes 22, 21, and 23.

References

See also

External links

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