Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Hsihu voters want freeway exit

EXIT POLL Although 98.4 percent of residents taking part in a referendum want the offramp to be built, officials said that they are not taking the big picture into account


A resounding majority of residents in Miaoli County's Hsihu (西湖) township want an exit from National Freeway No. 3 to be opened there.

An advisory referendum on Sunday showed that 98.4 percent of the residents who voted want the exit to be built. This is expected to boost the economic develop-ment of the area.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) said yesterday that he would respect the referendum results, but stressed that the results would have to undergo standard evaluation procedures and that the township would still have to apply to the government for the highway exit to be opened.

"There are certain standards that must be met before a freeway exit can be constructed. Hsihu has a population of around 9,000, and the township is only about six minutes from the Houlung (後龍) exit," Lin stated.

"If there are too many exits on a freeway, traffic will become a problem and the freeway won't be much use," Lin said.

A total of 4,872 of the township's eligible voters -- 75.3 percent -- cast ballots. The referendum was conducted and organized by the Association for the Promotion of Hsihu Residents' Rights (西湖鄉民權益促進會). The association cautioned the central government to take the referendum seriously and demanded a response within one month.

The Hsihu referendum follows close on the heels of September's Pinglin township advisory referendum, in which residents also voted for the construction of a freeway exit, despite objections from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The way the Pinglin advisory referendum had been handled sparked political debate and eventually led to the resignation of EPA head Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌). Hau said at the time that he felt his views on referendums concerning environmental matters were incompatible with those of the Cabinet after Premier Yu Shyi-kun's remark that professional opinions should not outweigh democracy.

The Hsihu referendum once again put professional opinion and democracy at odds with each other.

Chiu Lin-pin (邱琳濱), deputy director-general of the transport ministry's Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau, said yesterday that a Hsihu exit was inappropriate due to construction regulations and limitations.

"The Hsihu advisory referendum presents a very local, narrow point of view and does not take the big picture into account," Chiu said.

"Freeway exits are constructed at townships with a population of more than 50,000 or where there is a need to connect to other freeways or important routes," Chiu said.

"We cannot build a route connecting the Hsihu rest stop to local routes, because it would not be safe. Rest stops are usually enclosed areas and are not suitable as connectors between a freeway and local routes. It would affect the management of the rest stop and all relevant laws," Chiu said.

While the freeway includes an exit for a rest stop in Hsihu, there are no exits directly leading to local routes. Hsihu residents have repeatedly asked for a route to be built out of the rest stop to connect the national freeway to local roads.

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