‘Official’ or not, Pattaya tunnel is done, ready to open

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After years of pain, Sukhumvit Road motorists likely will have something to cheer when the Central Road bypass tunnel likely will open for business, even though its “official” opening may be months away.

All that remains to be done is to install traffic signs, paint barriers, finish the road surface in some areas, landscaping and adjust the lights at the Central-Sukhumvit roads intersection.
All that remains to be done is to install traffic signs, paint barriers, finish the road surface in some areas, landscaping and adjust the lights at the Central-Sukhumvit roads intersection.

Sources inside Napa Construction, the general contractor leading work on the 800-million-baht tunnel, and the Department of Rural Roads say contractual issues may cause the official grand opening of the project to be delayed until the elevator-equipped Sukhumvit Road overpass near the Redemptorist Vocational School for Persons with Disabilities is done at year -end.

The tunnel itself, however, was declared 98 percent complete on May 6 and may start accepting vehicles by May 22, when Napa’s contract ends.

All structural work and the inside of the tunnel is now complete. All that remains to be done is installation of additional traffic signs, painting barriers, road surface adjustment on some parts of Sukhumvit Road, landscaping and adjustment of lights at the Central-Sukhumvit roads intersection.

However, unnamed sources inside Napa said they cannot guarantee the company will deliver the tunnel due to concerns over payment related to the pedestrian bridge.

The overpass, first proposed in 2013, repeatedly has been delayed, most significantly from a lawsuit brought by the nearby Pattaya Pawn Shop, which claimed criminals would stand there and case the shop for lucrative victims. The lawsuit was tossed out in October, but, by the, the money for the bridge was spent elsewhere.

In December, Pattaya secured new funds, but more delays ensued over utility pipes and wires that would need to be moved. Plans have been drafted to do so, but, again, there’s no money.

In January, public officials decided to roll the pedestrian bridge into the tunnel project, as it is located within the construction zone. The idea was that doing so would speed building of the bridge. Instead, it may stall the tunnel.

If construction executives believe they won’t get paid for the tunnel until they finish the bridge, it’s possible the opening of the tunnel could be delayed, even though it’s done. Meetings are underway to confirm an early opening, as officials believe Pattaya area has suffered through a traffic nightmare long enough.