The Freeway No. 7 project is to go into a second-phase review process, despite a previous Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) meeting suggesting otherwise, the EIA General Assembly concluded yesterday.
An EIA specialist meeting late last month suggested the project, proposed by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, to build a 23km stretch of freeway from the Renwu (仁武) interchange to Kaohsiung Harbor, was inappropriate.
Environmental groups criticized the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for allegedly altering the meeting’s conclusions by adding the option of having it “go for a second phase EIA review” — an accusation the agency denied.
At the EIA General Assembly, the convener of the previous meeting of environmental specialists said that they were concerned about the negative impact from air and noise pollution on nearby residents, damage to the landscape and to the habitat of birds of prey, while also raising questions about whether the project would improve traffic congestion on National Freeway No. 1.
However, National Freeway Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said that the freeway project is important for access to Kaohsiung Harbor as National Freeway No. 1 has reached its capacity and will need the new stretch to disperse traffic flow. The project would not necessarily cause significant negative impact to the environment, he added.
Kaohsiung Civil Servant Citizen Watch member Lee Chung-chi (李重志) said that there is no way to estimate the amount of traffic relief the new freeway project would produce, because the operating model of the planned “free economic pilot zone” is still unclear and that spending an average of more than NT$2.6 billion per kilometer of freeway is too expensive.
Frank Yang (楊俊朗), a researcher with Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, said the freeway would cause air and noise pollution, as it plans to cut through Fengshan (鳳山) — one of the very few green spaces in Greater Kaohsiung.
Following a vote, the EIA General Assembly concluded the case would go forward for a second-phase review process.