Environmentalists expressed opposition yesterday to the government’s plan to build a new mountainside roadway linking Suao (蘇澳) and Hualien, arguing that it would be as damaging to the environment as the mothballed Suao-Hualien freeway project.
Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) called the plan “old wine in a new bottle,” saying it would follow a route that is almost identical to that of the freeway project.
Pan said the new project’s impact on the environment would not be any less serious just because the project has a different name.
The original plan was to build a freeway between Suao and Hualien to replace the winding roadway that cuts through the coastal mountains and is often blocked by landslides during periods of heavy rain. That project, which would have required extensive drilling of tunnels, sparked great controversy because of its potential impact on the surrounding ecosystem and was strongly opposed by environmental groups.
It was ultimately rejected by the Environmental Protection Administration’s environmental impact assessment panel in April.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said on Wednesday that the government was planning an alternative to the existing coastal Suhua Highway.
Planning for the new project is expected to be completed in the second half of next year, after which an environmental impact assessment will be conducted, Mao said.
Mao said the new road, which is likely to begin in Suao, Ilan County, and end in Chongde (崇德), Hualien County, would probably be an expressway rather than a freeway.
Hualien County Government Secretary-General Huang Chi-pin said yesterday that residents of Hualien were expecting a road to be built on which they could travel safely and it did not matter what it was called.
Huang said that he hoped the project would be implemented as soon as possible as it would improve the wellbeing of Hualien residents.