Nanjing destroys trunk road for Youth Olympics despite strong opposition; thousands came to say goodbye

March 18, 2012Jing Gao3 Comments, , , , , , , , , , ,

Multiple sources

At 10 p.m. on March 16, the 724-meter Shuiximen Viaduct was reduced to rubble in a blink of an eye. For 16 years, the City West Artery, which Shuiximen Viaduct has been a part of, has been bearing the weight of Nanjing’s high-speed road traffic. The blasting demolition of it has touched a raw nerve of people in Nanjing, the capital city of East China’s Jiangsu province. Thousands came over from across the town to witness the moment and bid it farewell.

And Nanjing’s Big Dig is far from being over. Blowing up the Shuiximen Viaduct is just the tip of the iceberg. The alteration project of the City West Artery, in which three other elevated roads will be destroyed in the same fashion, will follow. The four elevated roadways, spanning 6.13 kilometers (about 4 miles), will be replaced by four underpasses. The Nanjing Municipal Government refers to the project “Conversion from bridge to tunnel,” and vows to complete the transformation by the end of next year prior to the 2014 Youth Olympic Games hosted by the city.


Video of the demolition blasting of Shuiximen Viaduct:

On Friday night, over 2,400 residents living immediately around the viaduct were evacuated for the blasting. 2,600 more were ordered to stay home and forbidden from leaving. 190 storefront businesses were affected and closed for the day. About 800 kilos of dynamite were used. At least thousands stood behind the traffic cordon around the demolition site to watch the blasting.


In the huge crowd, reporter from Xinhua Agency’s Jiangsu bureau saw an old granny videotaping with a handheld camera. She said, “I am documenting Shuiximen Bridge little by little. I have so deep feeling for it.”

Xu seemed very nostalgic. He kept snapping shots of the elevated roadway with his cellphone, “After all, I have been living here for over ten years. I can see the viaduct the moment I open the curtains in the morning. Now it is going to be demolished. I wanna take a few more photos and save them in my computer as a memento.”

Grandpa Zhu carried his chihuahua in his arms and walked under the bridge for the last time in the afternoon. He heaved a sigh, “It’s the last night. I brought it along to see it.”

Another one said, “It has been suddenly blasted away. We feel an aching void in our heart.”

On the Internet, Yangtse Evening Post, a newspaper with a circulation of 2.1 million, made two videos to keep the entire City West Artery in memory, which combined received hundreds of thousands of hits on Sina Video.

Officials in Nanjing explained that currently, traffic in City West Artery has been very congested during the rush hours, and that their measurement and calculation show the traffic capacity for the trunk road will be 40 to 50 percent higher after the tunnels replace the viaducts in the same localities.

However, the local media and citizens question why engineers and urban planners did not foresee the situation in 1996 when . “A bridge with an intended life span of 50 years at the blueprint stage is to be blasted for the construction of a tunnel only 16 years after being put into use. Isn’t it a huge waste?” People ask.

The Nanjing Municipal Government refused to disclose the expenses of the reroute of the 6.13-kilometer City West Artery. The media estimated that it could ultimately cost more than 2.6 billion yuan.

Since the construction work began in late February, road traffic along the artery has been deteriorating. Ms. Su  told China Youth Daily that the 20-minute drive from her home to her workplace now can take two hours. Complaints about the inconveniences and delays caused by the alteration fill the streets.

Those living in Nanjing can hardly taste the real benefits brought by hosting the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. However, the plague sent by the Great Leap Forward in the city can be felt without a doubt. Even though the spin doctors in the local media devoted pages after pages to defending the project and even giving transportation tips, Nanjing residents do not buy it, and blame the Youth Olympics for the gridlock.

Nanjing, sitting astride the Yangtze River (sometimes spelt as Yangtse River) with a history of over 2,000 years and a population of six million, has long been one of China’s most important cities and was the capital of Republic of China ruled by the Kuomintang Party, until they fled to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war in 1949.

To most people in Nanjing, the difficulty of commuting across the Yangtze River, skyrocketing consumer prices and housing prices, are the protection of the old city are the issues of much more urgency and relevance than the reroute of the City West Artery. But because of the Youth Olympic Games, the government put the cart before the horse in spending taxpayers’ money. (Video: Where has Chinese taxpayers’ money gone?)

In March 2011, thousands of 70-year-old Chinese parasol trees were felled for the subway construction, another makeover plan paving the way for the Youth Olympic Games. Nanjingers, infuriated by the move, launched a tree-protection campaign in Sina’s microblog. Within less than five days, over 9,000 people joined the campaign and signed the online petition. Some evoked yearning of the previous regime, as most of Nanjing’s towering parasol trees and cedars that line the city’s streets today have grown from seedlings sowed by Kuomintang, or the Nationalist Party.

On Sina Weibo, a user named “@江菠萝”commented on a post about the trunk road reroute, “I feel sad at the mere thought of it…But the public opinion was just completely unable to affect the government’s decision-making.”


Xinhua Jiangsu:
Yangtze Evening Post:
Yangtze Evening Post:
Sina Weibo post:
Sina Weibo post:
Dongfang Daily:

Selected comments from Sina Weibo

香水Armani:The City West Artery was actually very beautiful…So beautiful to the extent that some people envied it and finally destroyed it. [怒][淚]

V5水哥:This is the spirit of a city.//@顏小淘: All people in Nanjing tonight are watching closely the City West Artery. Nanjing people are full of love…Only people in Nanjing will be filled with regrets and sorrow for a bridge and a road…[泪][泪][爱心传递][爱心传递][心][心]

小露呼呼: 16 years later, or maybe just 6 years later, what else would happen? [鄙视]

喝一桶:When things get irreversible, we can only sit back and enjoy it. For shitizens, being able to enjoy it is fortunate though.

老猫喵咪: A decent bridge…Gone after a blast…Money gone too…Don’t they feel bad about money down the drain…

牧童短笛V:At this moment, I do not have any good expectation for what happens after the “conversion from bridge to tunnel”. I only feel deep regrets for the ruin of taxpayers’ money earned by hard toil and the sleepless drudgery of construction workers in the yesteryear in one flashing instant.

是是如意:I feel so sad after watching these.

臭虫-张利方:Melancholic rhapsody.

凤蝶:16 years, all over again after a blast. In recent years, Nanjing fells trees, blasts bridges, dig roads…Okay, in fact, it is the same everywhere. China is a huge construction site, and will be for at least 20 more years.

雪孩子米修:In just an instant, our money is gone.

—-小猫同学:The government has once again done a disservice to the country and the people……[浮云][浮云][浮云][浮云][浮云][浮云]

totoroCYY: My mom said, the destructive power of humans is really strong! This comes from an ordinary citizen.

不想吃面包: Blasting away the bridge in order to dig a tunnel. This should absolutely be told as a joke to foreigners.

SSCxMISHKA: I cried. Don’t know why. A road I have been going along repeatedly for the past three years.

Vampire_Luke:Shuiximen Viaduct of the City West Artery, which has been with me for days and nights, farewell. Your shape will remain in Nanjingers’ memory forever.

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3 comments to “Nanjing destroys trunk road for Youth Olympics despite strong opposition; thousands came to say goodbye”

  1. Brewskie | March 21, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Why only 16 years? Is this another project that deteriorated much sooner than intended? China’s filled with these! So much stuff built in the last 15 years doesn’t hold out long.

  2. ninclud | April 16, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    That bridge was so ugly, i really don’t know why chinese people love to build such highways inside teh city…. As a european i really don’t understand that car-loving culture.

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