A controversial project to build a bridge over the Tamsui River (淡水河) gained final approval yesterday from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) general assembly, with construction planned to start as soon as next year and finish before 2020.
The proposed Tamkang Bridge (淡江大橋) would connect Tamsui (淡水) and Bali (八里) in New Taipei City (新北市), and is being built to ease heavy traffic in the area on weekends and holidays, aid the development of Tamhai New Town (淡海新市鎮) and provide faster access to other parts of the city.
It was designed in 1988 and first gained EIA approval in 1999. However, construction was stalled for many years due to a change in public construction priorities, and the developer — the Directorate-General of Highways — was required to submit a report on the differences in projected environmental impact between the original and updated proposal.
After holding three ad-hoc EIA specialists’ meetings, the project gained conditional approval in April, and the decision was finalized by the general assembly yesterday.
The project has led to opposition from some local residents, civic groups and environmentalists who are concerned that the bridge would mar the area’s scenery and harm the wetland ecology at the river mouth.
“The importance of a Tamsui sunset to Taiwan is like that of Mount Fuji to Japan,” said Chang Chien-lung (張建隆), a representative of the Tamsui History Fieldwork Workshop, adding that the developer should have considered other alternatives to improve traffic flow rather than insisting on building a bridge that would ruin the famous scenery.
Green Party Taiwan member Wang Chung-ming (王鐘銘) added that the river mouth is an ecologically sensitive area, and with the Watzuwei (挖子尾) wetland reserve and the Shihsanhang Culture (十 三行文化) historic site both located near the proposed bridge, the project should be carefully re-evaluated.
However, some residents have voiced support for the project, saying that the bridge would reduce traffic congestion and bring economic benefits to the area. Dozens of local residents led by borough heads and local councilors yesterday gathered in front of the EPA expressing their support for the project and urging the committee members to approve it.
While some committee members said they were also concerned about the possible negative impact of the project on nearby wetlands, the final consensus was to grant conditional approval to the planned bridge.
The committee requested the establishment of an ecology monitoring group and a selection committee for the bridge’s design team, in order to protect the ecosystem and local cultural sites as much as possible.
During the meeting, the highways agency said the bridge could become a new national landmark and would benefit people commuting between Tamsui and Bali, saving them about 15km compared with crossing the river at Guandu Bridge (關渡大橋), and would greatly improve traffic flow in the area.