Landlocked Heilongjiang is the northernmost and 6th largest province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It borders the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the west, the Russian Federation in the north and east, and the Jilin province in the south. It used to be a manufacturing base of products such as petroleum, coal, power plant equipment, metals, heavy machinery, steel, and wood. Trade played an important role in its economy, and international and domestic demand for its products had consistently risen. However, since the turn of the 1980s, its economy had dipped and by 2010, its per capita gross domestic product was 12.3% below the national average.
In line with the Government of PRC’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan, 2006–2010, which called for the revitalization of the northeastern region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved in April 2010 a loan of $200 million for the Second Heilongjiang Road Network Development Project. The project, which also supported the provincial government’s 3-year plan to speed up road development, planned to deliver 4 outputs: (i) 347.06 km of improved road infrastructure in the East–West 2 corridor that runs from Qianfeng Farm to the provincial border with Inner Mongolia, (ii) enhanced road maintenance in the province, (iii) better bus services in Bei’an City, and (iv) strengthened institutional capacity.
Along the East–West 2 corridor, a 206.26 kilometer, 4-lane expressway was constructed; new roads and interchanges, numerous overpasses, and several medium-span to super-long-span bridges were constructed. Pavements were improved, and toll stations, parking and other service areas were installed. Technical studies were undertaken to ensure that the engineering designs were suited to the needs of a climatically and geologically complex terrain and protective of the environment.
A road asset management system to improve road maintenance planning and budgeting was introduced, the implementation of a government-funded priority road maintenance program was supported, and performance-based road maintenance contracts were piloted. In Bei’an City, a user needs-based bus route licensing reform was piloted, bus stations were rehabilitated, and new ones were constructed to provide a safer and more reliable rural bus service in the pilot town and villages.
Trainings to enhance the provincial government’s capacity in road maintenance, construction management, asset management, and traffic control and emergency relief, among other things, were conducted. 3 overseas tours on road and bridge construction technology, road maintenance, and asset management were also supported.
Successful delivery of the planned outputs allowed the project to substantially achieve its intended outcome of providing the province a more resource-efficient, safe, and environment-friendly road transport system. The expressway greatly improved the connectivity and accessibility of border towns, boosting tourism and local commerce and trade. Travel time and transport costs were significantly reduced. However, average daily traffic on the project expressway had remained lower than projected since it opened in 2012.
Project implementation schedule and costs were generally as planned. The Heilongjiang Provincial Transportation Department (HPTD) was the executing agency, and a project management office established by the HTPD was the implementing agency.