The Busan Dongseo Elevated Highway, a 14-kilometer-long, four-lane roadway, has been a source of longstanding issues for the city and its residents. Despite its initial purpose of easing traffic between the eastern and western parts of Busan, the elevated highway has instead contributed to traffic congestion, noise pollution, and air pollution. Moreover, its presence has negatively impacted the urban landscape and compromised the privacy of nearby apartment dwellers. As a result, the future of the Dongseo Elevated Highway has become a topic of debate, with various stakeholders exploring potential solutions to address these challenges.
The Dongseo Elevated Highway, built at a height of 10 to 20 meters above ground, was initially planned as Busan’s second urban expressway to connect the eastern region of Nam-gu Gamman-dong with the western region of Sasang-gu Gamjeon-dong. Construction began in 1988, with the aim of reducing traffic congestion on the existing Gaya road, which connected the densely populated Sasang Industrial Park and the bustling commercial district of Seomyeon. At the time, traffic jams in the city center and delays in cargo transportation at Busan Port were significant concerns. The construction cost of the highway amounted to 549.2 billion KRW.
The Dongseo Elevated Highway opened in stages: the Hakjang Ramp to Munhyeon Ramp section in December 1992, the Sasang Interchange to Hakjang Ramp section in December 1994, and the Munhyeon Ramp to Gamman-dong Intersection section in February 1998. Initially operated as a toll road, it transitioned to free access in August 2009.
Despite the construction of the elevated highway, traffic congestion persisted. Commuters experienced frequent stop-and-go conditions during peak hours, and residents in neighboring apartments endured noise and air pollution. The elevated structure also marred the city’s aesthetics and infringed on the privacy of apartment residents.
Proposed Underground Highway
In March 2017, a private company submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport for the construction of a deep underground highway. The planned highway would be situated 30-40 meters below ground and span 22.8 km, featuring 4-6 lanes in each direction. This ambitious project aims to connect the starting points of the Namhae Expressway in Sasang-gu Gamjeon-dong and the Busan-Ulsan Expressway in Haeundae-gu Songjeong-dong. With an estimated cost of 2.188 trillion KRW (656.4 billion KRW in government funding and 1.362 trillion KRW in private investment), the construction is slated for completion by 2030, followed by 45 years of paid operation.
The proposed underground highway is expected to bring significant benefits to the region. If completed, it would improve traffic flow along the Dongseo Elevated Highway and help establish the southern economic region by connecting the Changwon and Yeosu Industrial Complexes with the Pohang and Ulsan Industrial Complexes. The Busan city government is urging for the project’s swift implementation, seeing its potential to alleviate traffic congestion and foster economic development in the area. The central government has also expressed its support, announcing the exemption from the preliminary feasibility study in 2019. In February, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport selected the consortium led by GS Construction, named “Sasang-Haeundae Expressway” (tentative), as the preferred negotiator. The plan is to sign an implementation agreement by next year, break ground in 2025, and complete construction by 2030.
Government Support and Timeline
The Sasang-Haeundae Expressway project has garnered significant support from both the central government and the Busan City government. In 2019, the central government announced the exemption from preliminary feasibility studies, adding momentum to the project. The Busan City government has also been actively pushing for the early implementation of the project, recognizing the potential benefits to the region.
In February 2023, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport selected a consortium led by GS Construction, called “Sasang-Haeundae Expressway” (tentative name), as the preferred negotiation partner. The consortium aims to sign an implementation agreement by 2024, break ground in 2025, and complete the construction by 2030.
With strong backing from government entities and the involvement of a reputable construction company, the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway project is expected to progress smoothly, eventually delivering much-needed improvements in transportation infrastructure and quality of life for Busan residents.
The nearby apartment residents who have long been affected by the issues caused by the Dongseo Elevated Highway are looking forward to the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway project with great anticipation. They believe that the construction of the new underground highway will significantly alleviate the problems they have been facing, such as traffic congestion, noise, air pollution, and invasion of their privacy.
With the completion of the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway, it is expected that many vehicles that used to utilize the Dongseo Elevated Highway will switch to the new route. Consequently, this change would naturally lead to a decrease in traffic volume on the Dongseo Elevated Highway. As a result, apartment residents hope to see improvements in their living environment and overall quality of life.
The prospect of finally being free from the long-standing issues associated with the Dongseo Elevated Highway is a source of optimism for the affected residents, who eagerly await the completion of the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway project
In addition to the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway project, another proposal has emerged suggesting that the Dongseo Elevated Highway could be transformed into an urban sky park, much like New York’s High Line and Seoullo 7017. This alternative idea aims to repurpose the elevated highway into a green public space, providing residents and visitors with a unique recreational area in the heart of the city.
Busan Green Trust, an organization promoting green conservation efforts, has played a significant role in bringing this alternative proposal to the forefront. They organized a forum called the “Busan Dongseo Elevated Highway Sky Forest Road Forum Seminar” last month to discuss the feasibility and potential benefits of turning the elevated highway into a sky park. This event has ignited a public debate on the best way to utilize the Dongseo Elevated Highway in the future.
While the city of Busan is considering the possibility of transforming the entire 14 km stretch of the highway into a park, they have acknowledged that at least a 7 km section (from Sasang Interchange to Jinyang Ramp) may need to be demolished due to the overlap with the proposed Sasang-Haeundae Expressway. Nevertheless, the prospect of creating a sky park that could potentially connect Busan’s east and west sides for pedestrians and cyclists remains an appealing idea, particularly in light of the city’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo at the Busan North Port site.
Busan City’s Position
Busan City has expressed openness to the idea of transforming the entire 14 km stretch of the Dongseo Elevated Highway into a park, recognizing the potential benefits this could bring to the city’s landscape and residents. One significant advantage is the possibility of connecting the elevated park to the Busan North Port, a candidate site for the 2030 World Expo.
By linking the sky park with the Busan North Port, the city would create a unique and appealing urban space that could attract both locals and visitors. The transformed highway would also provide a convenient and eco-friendly way to traverse the city from east to west, either on foot or by bicycle. This green infrastructure could boost Busan’s candidacy for the World Expo, showcasing the city’s commitment to sustainable urban development and innovative solutions for public spaces. However, the city must carefully consider all aspects of the proposal, including the potential need to demolish parts of the highway due to the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway project, before making a final decision.
Balance for the Future of Dongseo Elevated Highway
In summary, the future of the Dongseo Elevated Highway is at a critical juncture, with multiple options on the table, including the construction of the Sasang-Haeundae Expressway and the transformation of the highway into an urban sky park. Each proposal has its potential benefits, such as improved traffic flow, regional economic development, enhanced urban landscapes, and increased public green spaces.
It is crucial for all stakeholders, including the government, private companies, and residents, to engage in open and constructive discussions to carefully assess the advantages and drawbacks of each option. By considering the long-term implications and striving to strike a balance between competing interests, the parties involved can collaboratively develop a plan that ensures the most sustainable, effective, and appealing outcome for the Dongseo Elevated Highway and the city of Busan as a whole.