Photo taken on July 7, 2011 shows the first expressway of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, in Lhasa, capital of Tibet. Tibet's first expressway, a 37.8 kilometers long, four-lane road, were put into service on Sunday, linking Lhasa's city center with Gonggar Airport in the neighboring Shannan Prefecture. (Xinhua Photo)
The first expressway in Tibet opened to traffic on Sunday, with Vice President Xi Jinping cutting the ribbons at the opening ceremony.
The 37.8-km long, four-lane road links Lhasa's city center with Gonggar Airport in the neighboring Shannan Prefecture.
The toll-free expressway will halve the travel time from downtown Lhasa to the airport to 30 minutes.
"It will make the trip more convenient," said Yonten, 31, who has been working as driver for a company in Lhasa for three years.
In summer, when the Lhasa River swells, the old road from Lhasa to the airport could become flooded, Yonten said.
According to the driver, the old road, No. 318 National Highway, is narrow and jammed with traffic year round. "I once waited half an hour and almost missed my flight," he said.
"The new expressway will ease traffic pressure on a section of No. 318 National Highway," said Zhao Shijun, head of the transportation department of Tibet.
Construction of the expressway began in April, 2009 and was completed in early July, 11 months ahead of schedule.
The 1.59 billion yuan (246 million U.S. dollars) expressway has a speed limit of 120 km per hour, and its roadside lighting is powered by solar energy.