Tue, Sep 22, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Expressway plan draws rival rallies

TAMBEI:Councilors and many residents support the project linking Tamsui and Taipei, but critics of the plan said it poses risks to a mangrove forest

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Protesters and supporters of a proposed Tambei Expressway (淡北道路, Tamsui-Taipei Expressway) project in New Taipei City rallied at the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) headquarters in Taipei yesterday during an environmental review.

Environmentalists said that a road expansion would suffice to ease traffic without endangering the mangrove forest in the area.

Chang Yu-yin (張譽尹), a lawyer, said that the expansion of Highway No. 2, the only major artery linking Taipei to New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水), coupled with the soon-to-be-built Tamkang Bridge (淡江大橋) connecting the Tamsui (淡水) and Bali (八里) districts in New Taipei City and a light rail project, would be enough to reduce congestion in the area.

However, scores of Tamsui residents and supporters of the expressway project said local residents overwhelmingly welcome the project.

New Taipei City Councilor Tsai Chin-hsien (蔡錦賢) said that Highway No. 2 could not be substantially expanded to absorb the traffic because the highway is on a narrow corridor that has no room for expansion.

Tamsui District Administrator Wu Tsung-jen (巫宗仁) said that the light-rail project is designed for transportation within the district, which could not ease the traffic between Tamsui and Taipei.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee conditionally passed the expressway project in 2011, but the Taipei High Administrative Court rejected the review in 2013 on the grounds that the committee did not thoroughly assess the impact of the construction on the mangrove forest preservation area.

The EIA committee decided to start a second round of the EIA reviews for the expressway project in January, and a EIA meeting was convened yesterday to define the scope of further EIA reviews.

The developer previously proposed constructing a 4.7km passageway for travel between Tamsui and Taipei’s Guandu (關渡) area, where the mangrove forest is located.

However, at the EIA review yesterday, the developer said it would extend the original project with a 700m elevated section stretching along the Guandu area to avoid ground traffic, making the expressway a 5.4km construction, which sparked a fervor among EIA committee members and environmentalists.

Saying that the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) stipulates that a project needs to undergo another round of EIA reviews if there is a more than 10 percent change, Chang said the proposed 5.4km project would be a totally different project and that the developer has violated the law by pushing through a new project under the guise of the previous project.

However, the EPA said it has the final say on the legal interpretation of the act and accepted the developer’s new EIA report, the approval of which awaits further EIA assessment.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said that local councilors across party lines support the expressway project, and it is everyone’s intention to preserve the mangrove forest.

The expressway is not dispensable even given the construction of the Tamkang Bridge, and the expressway would serve as an evacuation route should a nuclear disaster occur at a power plant in New Taipei City’s Shihmen District (石門), he said.

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