Groups up in arms over freeway plans

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS::Saying that the freeway would impact the local ecology, and would also not reduce jams, protestors urged officials to think again

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jan 12, 2013 - Page 4

Dozens of environmentalists and Greater Kaohsiung residents yesterday demonstrated outside the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei against the construction of a new freeway through the city, as an environmental impact assessment (EIA) meeting was being held inside.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications wants to build a 23km stretch of National Freeway No. 7 parallel to the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (National Freeway No. 1) because the Sun Yat-sen is often jammed with heavy cargo trucks in the section near Kaohsiung Port.

Under the plan, National Freeway No. 7 would start from the port area and merge into National Freeway No. 10, which connects both the Sun Yat-sen Freeway and Formosa Freeway (National Freeway No. 3), so that some of the northbound traffic would travel on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway while some would move via the Formosa Freeway.

Environmentalists and residents have raised questions about the impact of the proposed freeway and are worried that it may impact the ecology of the area.

“I seriously doubt the benefit of the planned National Freeway No. 7 because despite the existence of the Formosa Freeway and National Freeway No. 10 in the area, most drivers still like to drive on Sun Yat-sen Freeway,” Citizens of the Earth Taiwan representative Yang Chun-lang (楊俊朗) said. “So maybe it’s a better idea to encourage more drivers to use the two existing freeways.”

Yang said the listed budget for the 23km freeway is NT$66 billion (US$2.2 billion).

“It’s really a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Yang said.

Kaohsiung resident Chien Chih-chiang (簡志強) agrees.

“There are a handful of existing roads, there’s no need to spend that much money to construct a new freeway,” Chien said. “Especially when drivers would still choose the Sun Yat-sen Freeway because it’s a shorter route.”

Chien also expressed his concern over the impact of construction on the environment, since the proposed freeway would pass through mostly rural areas of some ecological significance.

Wang Chun-fa (王春發), a 61-year-old farmer, is worried about expropriation of private land, which may alter the lives of residents.

“Officials should not try to change our lifestyle with a decision that they made sitting in an air-conditioned office,” Wang said. “I urge all EIA committee members to come visit us and see the environment for themselves.”

The EIA meeting ended late in the afternoon without reaching a conclusion.