Businesses in Chiang Rai are calling for a 150km motorway to be built linking the province with Chiang Mai to create a shorter route between the two, said Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt.
He said the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce and private sector claim the main route between the two provinces cuts through busy towns with heavy traffic.
They said the motorway will help shorten travel between the two provinces.
The minister said he has instructed the Highways Department and other agencies to study traffic congestion in major cities and come up with measures to ease the problem.
Chiang Rai is connected to regional transport routes which have carried a rise in the volume of freight transport over the past few years.
Mr Chadchat added the ministry will ask Laos to waive taxes on cargo transported from Thailand via Laos to southern China.
Goods passing through Laos should be treated as cargo in transit, for which no tax should be charged. However, Laos charges tax on such goods categorised as freight for re-export.
Mr Chadchat plans to discuss the issue with Lao authorities when he attends a ceremony to open the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge on Dec 20.
The new bridge will link Chiang Rai's Chiang Khong district and Huay Xai in the central Laos province of Bokeo.
The transport minister is also supervising several projects to boost transport in Chiang Rai.
Mr Chadchat said a plan was afoot to expand the runway at Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang airport to serve growing demand.
The airport serves 20 commercial flights daily and about 1 million passengers annually. He expects the traffic to increase to 1.7 million passengers per year in the future.
Mr Chadchat also ordered the State Railway of Thailand to extend its northern railway tracks from Phrae's Den Chai district to Chiang Rai.
The construction is expected to take eight years. He also ordered the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning to plan a high-speed railway from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.
There are also projects to build four-lane roads from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong and Phayao as well as a 200-rai cargo handling facility on the Chiang Khong side of the new Thai-Lao bridge.
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- Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook