Fri, Nov 02, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Meeting postpones Suhua Freeway decision indefinitely

By Meggie Lu  /  Staff Reporter

The fierce debate over the construction of the Suhua Freeway was reopened yesterday, and it was decided yet again to delay the resolution.

The construction of Suhua Freeway, proposed more than a decade ago to connect Ilan and Hualien, was put on hold because of concerns over the potential environmental impact.

In view of the mounting issues to be resolved, the committee yesterday requested the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau (TANFB) further investigate the issues and postponed the deadline for a final resolution indefinitely.

In January the Environmental Protection Administration's (EPA) environmental impact review committee requested the TANFB submit supplementary information in response to more than 30 unresolved issues.

At a meeting yesterday, TANFB Deputy Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) presented amendments to the project proposal that considered the environmental concerns.

"We adjusted routes to conserve the ecosystem and lessen the impact on local communities," Tseng said, adding that the proposal satisfied both the national land restoration act and the national land planning act.

"For example we moved the end of the freeway northward from Shoufeng (壽豐) to Jian (吉安) to shorten the freeway from 93km to 86km, so the new blueprint is greener than its predecessor," he said.

The Taiwan Green Party's Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) and representatives of allied environmental groups yesterday urged the committee to postpone their decision until after a new president is in office next May.

"The Suhua Freeway issue is no longer just a debate," Pan said. "It has become an election tool for prospective legislators and the presidential candidates."

The groups listed the economic burden, the low level of need and damage to the environment as the main reasons for their opposition.

"Instead of a comparison between the freeway and the highway, we should be looking at trains versus cars," he said, adding that trains emit 90 percent less carbon dioxide than cars.

Voicing a different opinion, Democratic Progressive Party legislative candidate Lu Po-chi (盧博基) and People First Party legislative candidate Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁) urged the committee to agree to the construction as it would decrease fatalities, improve the local economy, aid tourism and lessen carbon dioxide emissions.

"The Suhua highway is a three-hour windy road; cars emit more greenhouse gas than if there was a one-hour, straight, high speed freeway," Lu said. "It has the highest fatality rate in the nation."

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