The final electrical systems are being installed, with the contractor promising to have the work done by midnight Thursday (May 30), in line with the extended contract, Phuket Highways Chief Somwong Lohanut explained to The Phuket News.
“We will not open the tunnel after midnight on May 30 because it would be too dangerous for drivers,” he said.
“We will make sure all the systems are working, especially the electrical systems inside tunnel, in the morning on May 31,” he added.
Once the final checks are complete, the underpass will be opened to motorists, he said.
Chief Somwong confirmed that the underpass will open with one lane for traffic in each direction, with only orange plastic poles as lane dividers.
After confirming that each lane is 3.5 metres wide, lanes Chief Somwang assured that the lanes are wide enough for tour buses to pass in each in opposing directions.
“We are sure that tour buses can pass inside the underpass as the width of the lanes are international standard,” he said.
Somkiet Yimpong, Project Manager at the Phuket office of the Highways Department, explained that construction of the overall project, including decorative features, is about 98% complete.
“Now we are installing some security systems. Once the security system is complete, we will open the Chalong Underpass to traffic on May 31,” he confirmed.
However, Mr Somkiet allowed for some last-minute delays in his assurance the tunnel will open this weekend.
“The contractor has promised that everything will done on May 30, but I will need to inspect the construction. If I find that any defects making the tunnel unsafe or not secure, the contractor will have to fix the construction,” he said.
“I will confirm on May 30 whether or the Chalong Underpass will open to traffic or not, but only after I have completed my inspection,” he said.
Mr Somkiet also pointed out, “The Chalong Underpass is not the same as Phuket Airport Underpass or the Bang Khu Underpass. The Chalong Underpass tunnel is 350m long and the road is curved.
“The Phuket Airport Underpass tunnel in only 160m and it is straight, giving motorists a clear view through the tunnel from beginning to end. So with the Chalong Underpass we cannot have workers complete the finishing touches in the tunnel while opening one lane of the underpass to motorists at the same time.
“We must wait for everything to be done and the security system completed before we open the Chalong Underpass to traffic. If we opened it now, accidents will happen,” he said.
The golden lotus tower, being built in the middle of Chalong Circle at a cost of B3 million as part of the overall B546mn budget for the entire underpass project, will also be completed by week’s end, Mr Somkiet assured.
The tower features a sculpture of a lotus bulb, a Buddhist symbol of peace, as its crowning glory.
“The construction of the golden lotus tower isn’t finished just yet. We must finish painting it and complete a lot of detail, but it will be finished on time on May 30,” Mr Somkiet said.
Additional reporting by Waranya Prompinpiras