Wednesday, July 26, 2017

US to support highway upgrade

The United States has announced that it will work with the Ministry of Construction to upgrade the Yangon-Mandalay Highway less than a month after a deadly bus crash on the road.

A driver negotiates a bend in the Yangon-Mandalay Highway. Photo: StaffA driver negotiates a bend in the Yangon-Mandalay Highway. Photo: Staff

The United States Agency for International Development said in an announcement on June 9 that it had signed an agreement on May 27 to assist ministry officials with building increased safety measures along a 10-kilometre stretch of the roughly 589km (366-mile) highway.

This demonstration section will then be used by the ministry as a template for the remainder of the road. USAID engineers carried out a safety study of the highway and its driving conditions in May of last year.

“The United States is committed to supporting continued reform and broad-based economic development. As the economy grows, transportation infrastructure will have to accommodate more trade and traffic,” US ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell said in a statement.

“But this issue is about more than economic development; it is about saving lives.”

 The announcement comes as a deadly crash has cast a spotlight on the safety of the road. In response to the accident, the government announced plans to expand the highway from four to eight lanes.

Fourteen bus passengers were killed and 29 were injured on May 12 when a bus traveling from Nay Pyi Taw to Yangon plunged off a 45-meter-high bridge about 30 minutes after departing the capital.

From January to April of this year, there were 147 serious accidents on the highway, killing 57 and injuring 262, according to official statistics. The May crash came one month after a fiery collision between a bus and a car claimed 12 lives. In 2013, 259 accidents occurred on the road, with 113 people killed and 627 injured.