Penang Tunnel road projects face further delay

Gurney Drive will be reclaimed soon for future mixed development projects and for a land swap deal to build an undersea tunnel connecting this site to Butterworth on the mainland. ― Picture by K.E.Ooi
Gurney Drive will be reclaimed soon for future mixed development projects and for a land swap deal to build an undersea tunnel connecting this site to Butterworth on the mainland. ― Picture by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 9 ― The three paired roads proposed as part of the RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel project could be delayed further due to land and environmental assessment issues, said state executive councillor Lim Hock Seng.

“This package was supposed to start first but we found that the lands that was previously acquired by the federal government for the PORR project still belonged to the federal government,” the public works and utilities committee chairman said.

The PORR was the Penang Outer Ring Road project that was proposed by the previous Barisan Nasional state government and later cancelled after they lost in Election 2008.

He said the state government will need to seek approval from the federal government to use the affected land before work for the so-called Package Two — paired roads connecting the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway to Air Itam — can start.

Lim said that Penang will proceed with Package One —  phase one to connect Tanjung Bungah to Batu Ferringhi and second phase to connect Batu Ferringhi to Teluk Bahang — in the meantime.

He said Consortium Zenith BUCG, the company undertaking the massive undersea tunnel and paired roads project, will identify the land needed and inform the state for acquistion.

“This section involves private land so we can acquire it, unlike federal government-owned land which we can't acquire,” he said.

But he said Package One will also need a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) from the Department of Environment before they can commence work on the project, compared to the preliminary report as previously required.

The three paired roads project are supposed to be carried out in stages between this year to 2025.

The third package is to connect Gurney Drive to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and it will be the last package to be constructed.

On whether the delay in implementing the projects could raise costs, Lim said the costs of construction for the paired roads were already fixed according to the tender agreement with Consortium Zenith BUCG.

“However, we won't know about the land costs, as we needed to acquire land, so if land prices were to increase, this means the costs of acquiring lands for the project might increase,” he said.

The proposed undersea tunnel is a 7.2km link between Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam in north Seberang Perai and the three paired roads were to disperse traffic in the areas and to link to the undersea tunnel.

Meanwhile, a public briefing on Package One of the paired roads, the one from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, will be held on this Saturday evening at the Tanjung Bungah market complex to explain the details of the project to local residents.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said his office will also conduct a survey to gather public opinion on the project.

“The paired road is a needed infrastructure project that will benefit the public but I am certain that by engaging the residents in the whole process, there will be a better understanding of the project,” he said in another press conference this morning.

Other than the upcoming briefing, Teh said there will also be more meetings in the form of dialogues with residents in future.

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