Taiwan’s Council for Economic Planning and Development has approved a NT$40bn ($1.25bn) plan to upgrade the Suhua Highway, which links Yilan County and Hualien City.

Work includes shortening the existing 118km single-lane highway by 16.7km and adding seven 22.2km-long tunnels as well as 7.7km of viaducts and bridges to replace dangerous sections of the road lining coastal cliffs.

The renovation is expected to cut the travel time between Suao, Yilan, and Hualien from the current two hours to 72 minutes as well as enhance the road’s safety.

Most of the work would take place on the 77km section between Suao and Chongde Township, which lies at the entrance to the central cross-island highway leading to Taroko Gorge.

Construction is expected to begin in 2011 and finish in 2016.