Tue, Jan 26, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Premier announces Suhua road plan

THROWING MONEY AT THE PROBLEMWu said that an additional NT$1.8 billion would be allocated to improve the Suao-Hualien Highway that cuts through coastal cliffs


A section of the Suhua Highway is pictured on Nov. 9 after it collapsed following heavy rain in Yilan County in early October.


Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said yesterday the government was set to allocate a budget of NT$40 billion (US$1.25 billion) for the construction of a new mountain highway connecting Suao in the northeast and Hualien in the east.

The statement followed a decision by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications late last month to scrap a controversial Suhua Expressway project and instead propose building a less ambitious mountain highway that may intersect with parts of the existing highway.

The government will tender work on the proposed highway by the end of the year after the project passes an environmental impact assessment, while some latitude will be kept for future upgrades, he said.

In his capacity as Chinese ­Nationalist Party (KMT) ­chairman, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) solicited grassroots opinion on the matter on Sunday while campaigning in Hualien County for Wang Ting-sheng (王廷升), the KMT candidate in an upcoming legislative by-election.

He relayed grassroots calls in favor of the mountain highway at the weekly coordination meeting attended by Ma and Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), the heads of the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan and the KMT.

Wu said in the meeting that an additional NT$1.8 billion would be allocated to improve the Suao-Hualien Highway that cuts through coastal cliffs and is vulnerable to landslides.

Improving transportation links between the two areas on the east coast has long stirred controversy.

An expensive expressway was proposed more than a decade ago but has faced strong opposition from environmental experts and activists who said it would destroy the flora, fauna and ecological balance in the area.

With many unconvinced that simply repairing the highway would solve Hualien’s transportation woes, the mountain highway was proposed as a compromise.

At present, Hualien County can be accessed from the north by the mostly single lane Suao-Hualien Highway and from the west by a windy road that cuts through the central mountains.

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