National Highway 14 is the key route connecting the Central Highlands with the Southeastern and Central parts of Vietnam, yet the road is in a critically deteriorating state, said Le Huu Khanh, head of the secretariat of the Department of Transport of Dak Nong Province.

The highway these days see lines of trucks slowly crawling by due to a large number of huge potholes scattering its surface.

Somewhere along the road are groups of workers using tar to temporarily patch the damaged surface.

The temporary repairs have been made for months, but the road quickly returns to its poor condition, locals said.

Sharing the same fate are the roads passing the Dak Gan, Nam Giang, and Truong Xuan communes.

More than 170 potholes, 0.5m to 3.2m wide, have been found on the 75-km road from Dac Cay District to Cay Chanh District, constructed by the Duc Long Dak Nong BOT-BT Co, according to figures from the Dak Nong traffic inspectorate.

Economic development affected

Ho Ngoc An, regional representative of the management board of the Ho Chi Minh Road project, said the board has assigned many different constructors to repair the part of the Ho Chi Minh Road from Kon Tum Province to Binh Phuoc Province.

"However, construction work has been progressing slowly since many investors cannot access bank loans due to high interest rates," he said.

"And yet the road has increasingly deteriorated."

An official from Dak Nong People's Committee said traffic on the road has been nearly blocked due to the slow repairing and construction progress.

"So we have no idea when Ho Chi Minh Road will be able to meet the expectation of easing traffic congestion on National Highway 1A."

Khanh of the Dak Nong Department of Transport said the poor condition of the road passing by the National Highway 14 has adversely affected the economic development, goods circulation, and linkages between the Central Highlands provinces.

A passenger who usually takes long-haul buses travelling by the road said no matter how comfortably equipped the bus is, he still finds it hard to sleep at night due to the rocky road.

Some buses even choose to take another road to avoid passing through National Highway 14, although it means they have to travel twice the distance.

Long-haul bus companies travelling between Buon Ma Thuot and HCM City lamented that it used to take them less than 8 hours to cover up the 350-km road.

But now due to its poor condition, they have to spend up to 10 hours, with expenses overrunning by 15 percent, to go through the road, they said.

Cargo truck drivers also said the rocky surface has resulted in more flat tires for tSTC who drive on it, not to mention the increasing number of street accidents.

"Even worse, there are as many as seven toll booths on the road, which is only 350km long," the owner of a bus company said.

"It is unfair that we have to pay a toll while the road remains so deteriorated."

According to the Ho Chi Minh Road management board, the 3,167-km Ho Chi Minh Road passes through 30 localities around the country.

The road was scheduled for completion by the end of 2010, but was delayed until 2015 due to investors' capital shortage.

The Dak Lak's people's committee has also repeatedly called on the government to provide funding to complete work on the part of the road passing through the province.

For his part, Dinh Viet Hung, deputy head of the management board's representative office in Da Nang, attributed the slow progress of work on the road to the weak financial muscles of the investors, and the exorbitant lending interest rates.

"Meanwhile, the government has yet to provide capital support in time."

Tuoi Tre - February 18, 2012