Taipei County Government representatives on Thursday finished a presentation at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) on their controversial plan to construct an alternative route for Provincial Highway 2 in Tamsui Township (淡水).
Newspaper headlines said the Tamsui-Taipei, or Tanbei, Expressway would start construction by the end of this year.
Since the county held its first public presentation for the road in June, construction of the alternate highway has stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy.
When approached for comment, the Taipei County Government’s Water Resources Bureau said the road would not only aid the development of Tamsui Township, but also provide the township with an alternative highway to improve traffic flow and speed up emergency traffic such as ambulances.
“It is a consensus that traffic is congested in the area; if we want to expand Provincial Highway 2, it would first be necessary to build an alternative road so that traffic is not blocked while we expand the highway,” said the official, who declined to be named.
Meanwhile, environmental activists and local residents have criticized the project because of its potential damage to the environment.
The groups also questioned the necessity for the county to spend NT$3.8 billion (US$119.2 million) on a road so short.
“The county is walking a thin line between legal and illegal,” said Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (GCAA) secretary-general Tsui Su-hsin (崔愫欣), whose organization has collected more than 5,000 signatures against the project.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act (環境影響評估法) stipulates that high-rise roads more than 5km long must undergo an environmental impact assessment, Tsui said.
The proposed expressway, which would go by a mangrove conservation, the Tamsui River waterfront and a potential historic site, would be a 4.7km stretch, Tsui said.
Investigations are under way on a site near Hungshulin MRT station where pottery potentially 3,000 years old has been unearthed.
Half of the road would be high-rise, while the whole length would connect Denghui Boulevard in Tamsui with Dadu Road, which crosses the border between Taipei City and County, Tsui said.
“The county is also avoiding calling it an ‘expressway,’ intentionally setting the speed limit at 50kph — although it has no entry or exits — in order to avoid having to go through an EIA,” Tsui said.
As a resident of Tamsui Township, former environmental protection minister Winston Dang (陳重信) strongly opposes the project.
“The EIA Act clearly states that damage to conservation efforts, scenery and historic sites should be carefully evaluated,” he said. “The Environmental Protection Administration [EPA] and Forestry Bureau have already advised against the construction because of the potential impact ... Though the road is only 4.7km, the EPA should consider interceding, as it is not the length of a road that matters, but where it passes.”
The environmentalists said if the county government were serious in its determination to reduce carbon emissions, it would develop alternative transportation routes to and from Tamsui.
“The government can clean up the Tamsui River and develop its ferry service ... All developed metropolitan areas in the world have a beautiful waterfront and it would be ridiculous to block that off for a road,” said Chung Chi-chung (鍾基忠), chairman of the Anti-Tanbei Federation, an ally of Tamsui locals who are against the plan.