EPA rejects call to speed up highway vetting process


TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) will not hasten an environmental impact assessment for the Suhua Highway improvement project, despite the urgency of the project, EPA Minister Stephen Shen said yesterday.

According to Shen, Premier Wu Den-yih was merely expressing his personal opinion when he said earlier that the project could be completed by the end of 2016.

Shen said the EPA will respect the professional opinions of experts on whether the project can pass the assessment.

If the project proceeds as planned, the road will provide safer passage between Yilan and Hualien than the existing one, which follows the contours of a series of ravines, he said, explaining that the upgrading project will involve replacing entire sections of the highway with tunnels and bridges.

The safety of the Suhua Highway came to the forefront once again after the accident-prone road was hit by serious landslides during Typhoon Megi last week, leaving one person confirmed dead and 25 others missing.

Wu said earlier in the day that the government would begin holding tenders for the project as soon as it passes the environmental impact assessment.