Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Civil engineers say bridge at tunnel was a necessity

BY JIMMY CHUANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite allegations that it was built to flatter the president and the premier, the temporary bridge to the Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) -- still under construction -- has indeed been a necessity, civil engineers said yesterday.

"There was a need to build a temporary bridge for construction purposes. The allegations that the bridge was a `gift' to flatter officials may not be accurate and fair," said Yang Yung-bin (楊永斌), a professor of the civil engineering department of National Taiwan University.

Yang made his remarks during a press conference yesterday morning. He referred to an official visit on Aug. 27, when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) as well as other government officials visited the site of the tunnel to see how construction was coming along.

A local TV reporter quoted an anonymous source and said that the temporary bridge to the entrance of the tunnel was actually unnecessary and was built only to flatter and impress the president and the premier. It enabled official vehicles to enter the tunnel and inspect the construction without getting dirty, the source said.

The source, reportedly one of the workers on site, complained that supervisors asked workers to do overtime on Aug. 26 "just because the president is visiting." The bridge cost NT$1.5 million to build but it was torn down a few days after the visit.

In response to public complaints, Hsieh asked Minister Without Portfolio Lin Sheng-feng (林盛豐) to convene an eight-person evaluation team to investigate the allegations. They decided to return to the site again on Aug. 30 with Yang as their convener.

Yang said that the temporary bridge had been built because workers needed a temporary entrance and exit to the tunnel. Engineers decided to build it early last month but, because of other construction work, could not begin building it until Aug. 24.

"It was a mere coincidence that they finished the bridge on Aug. 26 and the president visited the site the next day," Yang said.

"In addition, since the temporary bridge was designed for use by small vehicles for a limited time only, it is clearly reasonable that 18-wheelers were not allowed to use the bridge and the bridge was torn down after a few days' use," he said.

Yang said that the temporary bridge was estimated to cost NT$1.46 million, which was also a reasonable price.

"I would urge the public to leave engineering alone because it has nothing to do with politics," Yang said. "Leave them [engineers] some room to do their jobs, so they can do quality work for us."

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