From not one mile of expressway 18 years ago, China now has the second most extensive network in the world behind only the U.S., state media said April 5. China had 41,000 kilometers (25,400 miles) of expressway at the end of last year, the China Daily said. "Our plan for the next five years is to maintain the same speed as in the previous five years," said Dai Dongchang, director of Transport Planning and Research Institute at the Ministry of Communications.
The ambitious construction schedule is of huge importance for China's future growth prospects as at least 60% of its economy is facilitated by road transport. "Although transportation is no longer a bottleneck for the economy, we still need to expand its role," Dai said.
After its completion in 2010, the Chinese expressway network will connect all provincial capitals and cities with at least half a million people.
Over the longer term, the plan is to increase the total length of expressways to at least 85,000 kilometers by 2020, or just short of the current U.S. network of about 90,000 kilometers.
During the period, about two trillion yuan (US$250 billion) will be raised for road development from overseas and private investors.
At least three major expressways will be built to link China's major economic hubs such as the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the Bohai Sea Rim areas before 2020.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006