A key roadway in Hotan prefecture, in the south of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, was opened to traffic for the first time on Wednesday.
The four-lane highway is an important component of China's planned road network that aims to better connect the country with Central and South Asia.
Construction on the 74-kilometer highway linking Moyu and Lop counties via the city of Hotan broke ground in March 2015. The new roadway helps link every city and prefecture in the region to the highway network.
"The region will help complete the highway loop connecting key cities in southern Xinjiang around the Tarim Basin including Korla, Hotan and Kashgar. The new highway in Hotan is an important part of the network," Li Zhinong, deputy director of the region's Transportation Bureau, said at an opening ceremony held in Moyu.
The highway will significantly improve travel conditions in southern Xinjiang, Li said.
Xinjiang, which borders countries such as Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, has been designated a core region on the Silk Road Economic Belt, a component of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the central government believes improving connectivity is crucial to the former's construction. The region plans to complete the construction of 224 km of new highways in 2018, according to the bureau.
"Before the highway was built, it took more than two hours to travel between Moyu and Hotan because of speed limits in place near villages and relatively poor road conditions. The new road is 17 kilometers shorter than the old one so it only takes about 40 minutes," said Phurat Ibrahim, director of the project.
Xinjiang's latest highway will boost social and tourism development, and help open the region to the outside world, said Liu Yuzhi, director of the Xinjiang Communications Construction Administrative Bureau.