Since the 921 Earthquake destroyed the Central Cross-Island Highway 13 years ago, residents in Greater Taichung’s Lishan (梨山) have been unfairly forced to take the long road home, according to Lishan borough chief Chen Cheng-fu (陳政福) — and that includes high school students returning home on the weekends.
The 190km cross-island highway, which connects Grater Taichung in the west and Hualien County in the east, has been under reconstruction since it was almost totally destroyed in the quake, and a temporary road is open to restricted traffic at 7am and 5pm each day.
Yet even this temporary road is closed from time to time. Last week, it was closed for three days and only reopened on Saturday, after heavy rain destabilized rocks on surrounding slopes, said Hung Fan-yi (洪璠儀), the head of the Guguan segment of the highway’s reconstruction unit under the Directorate General of Highways
Chen urged the government to guarantee the safety of the temporary track and increase the number of hours that it is open.
“Not a single road on the mountain is free from falling rocks,” said Chen. “I really wish my friends in Taichung could visit me sometimes.”
Originally, it was only an 81km drive on the Central Cross-Island Highway from Lishan to Taichung, but with the highway still under repair, Lishan residents have to travel 169 km, more than double the distance, by passing through Nantou County’s Hehuan Mountain, according to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣).
There are no high schools in the Lishan mountain region, so students are sent to study in Greater Taichung, but often need to take a very long trip to return home on weekends, he added.
Taichung City Councilor Su Ching-yun (蘇慶雲) also said that it was unreasonable for residents in Taichung to have to travel through Nantou County to enter the area, and asked the government to reopen the highway to all Taichung residents as soon as possible.
The temporary road can currently only be used by residents of Fongyuan (豐原), Dongshih (東勢) , Shigang (石岡) , Shinshe (新社) and Heping (和平) districts, who are working in Lishan.
However, Hung said that some segments of the highway are surrounded by steep slopes and cliffs, and heavy rain causes rocks to fall from the upper slopes. Blockages caused by fallen rocks can make it even more difficult for cars to pass and also pose safety concerns, Hung added.
The segment of the highway that passes through Lishan is being rebuilt by the Directorate General of Highways’ Second Maintenance Office.