Guangdong authorities have finally approved a 55-kilometre bridge-and-tunnel project to provide Shenzhen a direct route to the western side of the Pearl River Delta.
The provincial Transport Department has released its plan for the link between Shenzhen and Zhongshan , which would reduce travel times to less than 30 minutes in clear traffic, down from about 90 minutes.
The overloaded Humen Bridge is the only span connecting both sides of the delta. The new project could turn Zhongshan into a destination for Shenzhen companies looking for cheap and abundant land and boost Shenzhen's efforts to eclipse Hong Kong's port.
Shenzhen authorities first proposed building a bridge or tunnel to Zhongshan in 2008, soon after its request to be included in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project was rejected by Beijing due to strong opposition from Hong Kong.
But Shenzhen struggled to get political backing from the provincial or central governments as both wanted to give priority to the more southerly crossing.
The Transport Department said on Friday the new project would consist of a 6.7-kilometre tunnel starting on the Shenzhen side and 19 bridges totalling 43 kilometers. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2015 and be completed in 2021, the government-run Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported
Once completed, the link will provide four lanes in each direction, with a maximum speed of 100km/h. It will join the Zhongjiang Expressway, the Guangshen Coastal Expressway to the south of Shenzhen's airport and the Jihe Expressway to the east of the airport.
Mainland and Hong Kong analysts said the project could draw as much as 40 per cent of the potential traffic away from the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and threatens to reduce the regional dominance of Hong Kong's airport and harbour. The southerly span is expected to be completed by 2016.
"Thanks to the ambitious urbanisation projects aimed at turning the Pearl River Delta into a supersized metropolis, the authorities now think the more links there are between delta cities the better," said Jin Xinyi , of the Shenzhen Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.