In Chinese culture the 60th birthday is considered an important milestone because it marks the completion of one life cycle and the start of another. At the Directorate General of Highways (DGH) we are preparing to celebrate this grand occasion six decades after our establishment on August 1, 1946.
Today the DGH looks far different than it did then. We began as the Motor Vehicles Division of the Railroad Management Commission, which was part of the Taiwan Executive Office’s Transportation Ministry. Our main duties were highway transportation and assisting with highway management, but by 1949 they had expanded to include the highway construction originally handled by the Public Construction Bureau. In 1980 the DGH handed over its transportation duties to the newly formed Taiwan Motor Transportation Company, and two decades later streamlining of the Provincial Government in 1999 led the DGH to be reassigned under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC). In 2002 passage of the Organization Act of Directorate General of Highways led to a new official name for the DGH, the Directorate General of Highways, MOTC, which is still uses today.
When the DGH was founded it faced a monumental task. Taiwan had 17,092 kilometers of highway left over from the Japanese colonial period, but only 40 percent of the network remained functional after the war. And even the drivable roads were in terrible condition. For example just 140 kilometers of Provincial Highway 1 was covered in quality road surface, the rest made of gravel. Considering that this was the state of such an important north-south roadway, it is easy to imagine what other highways were like. Besides these roads, there were dozens of bridges waiting to be rebuilt. Therefore, from 1946-1951, the DGH focused on highway repairs and maintenance. Its goal was to return the transportation network to pre-war condition so better highways would be available for military and civilian use. As for highway supervision the DGH initially used the Japanese method of keeping automobile records by hand. It was a time consuming method prone to error, but was still manageable because there were only 4,975 vehicles left after the war.
Following these early years of recovery, the DGH shifted its focus in 1960 to developing the nation’s highway network. For the next two decades it embarked on a mission to grow the network at the same pace as the development that was changing Taiwan from an agricultural to an industrial society. In 1961 the DGH brought clarity to traffic data and the highway network when it completed its first highway census and finished numbering highways, and in 1964 it printed a complete highway road map. Additional highway censuses were completed in 1975 and 1983, and the information gained from them became the basis of subsequent highway construction. During this time Taiwan enjoyed phenomenal economic success that led to greater transportation needs from both the industrial and private sectors. More disposable income led to 7 million automobiles and scooters on Taiwan’s roads by the 1980s, making it clear that old methods of supervising these vehicles were insufficient. Therefore, the DGH decided to raise efficiency by commissioning the Telecommunications Institute (known today as Chunghwa Telecom) in October 1981 to plan, design and develop a digital highway supervision and management system. This system was put in service in March 1984, and after five stages of expansion it covered the entire island by February 1986. But the number of cars and scooters in Taiwan continued to grow rapidly, and soon even this advanced system was incapable of handling the information load. The DGH and Telecommunications Institute decided to launch the “Second Generation Computerized Highway Supervision System Project.” This project became the basis for the completely computerized highway supervision system used today.
As the 1990s arrived and the total length of Taiwan’s highway network reached 20,000 kilometers, the DGH stayed committed to improving the quality of the nation’s highways. It launched a series of modernization plans that included: (1) “Project to Improve Main Provincial Highway Routes”: Its purpose was to build a complete traffic network between suburban and downtown areas. From 1990 to 2003 the DGH spent NTD33.98 billion on 12 major highway routes, including Provincial Highways 1, 1D (Ding), 7C (Bing), 9, 11, 13, 14A (Jia), 16, 19, 20, 21 and 24. The project shortened travel time between rural and urban areas and boosted the economy of surrounding areas. (2) “Other Major Highways Improvement Project”: Its purpose was to connect Taiwan’s north-south highways with the Sun Yat-Sen Freeway and National Freeway 3. The project was conducted between 1991 and 2003 at a cost of NTD42.434 billion and included rebuilding of the Taipei and Huajiang bridges, improvements to major county and east-west roads, as well as improvements to roads surrounding Taichung, the Hsinchu-Jhudong Riverside Expressway, the Yueguang Mountain Tunnel, and excavation of the Yuli-Changbin Highway. (3) “West Coast Expressway Project”: Its purpose was to ease traffic on freeways by connecting them with east-west expressways. From 1992 to 2006 the DGH spent NTD84.324 billion expanding the West Coast Expressway and constructing new outer ring and elevated highways. (4) “12 East-West Expressway Construction Projects in the Western Corridor”: These were carried out to bridge the development gap between cities and rural areas and to produce an east-west cross-island expressway network that bridges the West Coast Expressway, Sun Yat-Sen Freeway, and National Freeway 3. Between 1992 and 2005 the DGH spent NTD113.331 billion on eight sections rated of primary or secondary importance, including Guanyin to Daxi, Nanliao to Jhudong, Houlong to Wenshui, Hanbao to Caotun, Taixi to Gukeng, Dongshi to Chiayi, Beimen to Yujing, and Kaohsiung to Ehaozhou.
The DGH also initiated dramatic changes in highway supervision. Between August 1993 and February 1994 it implemented a second generation computerized system which allowed transfer services to extend across different jurisdictions. It tested the system over three stages from October 1994 to February 1995 before offering it island-wide in March 1996. By letting drivers take advantage of motor vehicle transfers across the island without having to return to their original registered area, the system saves the general public time while simplifying work for the DGH.
This improvement was just one of 140 changes the DGH introduced over seven stages from 1993 to 2006. Each adhered to the principles of friendliness and convenience, streamlined and safe service, as well as clean governance. They were the result of joint brainstorming by staff followed by perseverance in problem solving. Developers conducted tests every step of the way so they could make needed improvements before implementation, letting the DGH successfully turn another new page in highway supervision.
There is no end to road construction. It must meet the transportation needs of the general public while accommodating national infrastructure projects. And as the road network grows, attention must be turned to improving quality. Highway supervision presents similar challenges. There is always room for better service which can only be achieved through dedication. I am thankful to all DGH staff and others who have devoted themselves quietly for the past six decades to meeting the high expectations of the public. Their strong will and spirit provides inspiration as we look forward to another successful 60 years.
Update Unit：SecretariatResearch and Evaluation Section(1700)View：8,030Update：103-11-10 11:04