The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday that a decision on the fate of the controversial Suhua freeway (蘇花高速公路) would probably not be reached until early next year.
The EPA still has to gather the public's and experts' opinions on the project and incorporate them into the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' (MOTC) report on general transportation policy for the east coast before a final decision could be made on whether to push through with the project, said Liu Chia-chun (劉 佳鈞), deputy director of the administration's general planning department.
To this end, the EPA will host a public hearing next Tuesday and has invited environmental advocates, government officials and industry representatives to the meeting, Liu said.
A final version of the report, with the suggestions included, would then be submitted to the Executive Yuan for approval, he said.
"Any resolution on this report will become the basis for formulating a policy to determine the best transportation system for the East Coast," Liu said.
Liu said that the EPA would likely submit its proposals on the transportation policy for the east coast either by the end of the year or in early January.
Only then could the EPA start evaluating the viability of the Suhua freeway project, which might take a month or two to finish.
Liu emphasized that the environmental assessment report on the transportation policy would merely serve as an advisory for the Cabinet when it makes the final decision.
The Suhua freeway is a controversial project and the EPA is handling it as a special case, Liu said.
The EPA, however, is authorized to determine if the Suhua freeway project passes or fails the environmental assessment.
The MOTC report has provided several potential solutions to solve transportation problems along the east coast. The government could choose to maintain the status quo by not adding new construction projects, and work on increasing the operational efficiency of existing transportation facilities. Should this fail to work out, the government could then reconsider the construction of the Suhua freeway.
The project passed an environmental impact assessment in 2000 and has secured a construction permit in 2002. However, it was suspended in 2003 by then premier You Shyi-kun owing to public opposition.
Since the construction has been stalled for more than three years, there may have been vital changes in the environment. The MOTC was required by law to turn in a variation analysis on the environment.
Late last month, the ministry submitted environmental assessment reports on the general transportation policy for the east coast and the Suhua freeway project.