Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

KMT lawmakers raise alarm over bridge safety

DANGEROUS INFRASTRUCTURE Local governments do not have the funds to maintain hundreds of bridges that were built more than 40 years ago, the legislators said

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday urged the central government to take control of bridge maintenance from local governments, half of which do not earmark any funding for bridge inspections or maintenance.

Among the 942 bridges built more than 40 years ago around the country, 600 are managed by the central government, with responsibility for the remainder falling on local governments, the lawmakers said, citing information from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

"There are safety concerns over about 300 bridges, as half of the local governments are plagued by financial difficulties and are short of funds for maintenance," KMT caucus whip Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) told a press conference.

"Of the 300 bridges, 68 -- 10 of which are more than 60 years old -- are in urgent need of overhaul," Hsu said.

"Aside from these bridges, local governments are also responsible for some 8,000 bridges, many of which do not have records of when they were built. These are all dangerous bridges," Hsu said.

KMT Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓) called on Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) to prioritize a thorough inspection of those bridges.

"It's not too late to do this before any accident happens," Chou said.

Ministry records show that among 26 local governments, only Taipei City, Taipei County, Keelung City, Ilan County, Hsinchu County, Taichung City, Taichung County, Changhua County, Nantou County, Tainan City and Kaohsiung City have spent money on inspecting bridge safety.

The Public Construction Commission issued a press release saying it has been monitoring all bridges -- about 26,000 -- in the country.

The commission said that a system, which contains basic information on all bridges and records of their maintenance, was put into practice in 2001, allowing agencies in charge of the bridges to check on their condition any time.

It said that the government plans to rehabilitate old bridges by investing NT$7.96 billion (US$240 million) from this year to 2009 to rebuild 121 "dangerous" bridges and spend on the maintenance of another 1000.

Also see story:
70,000 US bridges rated as `structurally deficient'

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