GEORGE TOWN, Aug 7 — The controversial Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1) alignment is still in the preliminary design stage, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.
The Penang lawmaker said the proposed 19.5km highway, consisting of tunnels through hills, is still subject to further enhancements.
“We are looking at all feedback to further improve the alignment to reduce impact on the community,” he said in a press conference today in response to recent protests by the civil society and residents against the project.
Chow added that the state will consider all feedback from residents and all groups including those published in the media.
He said PIL1 is urgently needed as a solution to the traffic congestion problems in the state.
“We will accept all feedback, we will not run away from this,” he said.
PIL 1 is a proposed RM7.5 billion highway to connect the north of the island to the south side of the island by cutting through hills including Penang Hill and Paya Terubong while a cable-stayed bridge is proposed to cross over Youth Park, a popular recreational park on the island.
Affected residents and civil society have protested against the project numerous times citing environmental impact and the impact on the quality of life of the people living near the highway alignment.
On the environmental impact on Youth Park, one of the green lungs on the island, Chow said the previous Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) alignment also goes through the park.
“The highway connected from Gottlieb Road so it has to go through the park but it is only on the fringe of the park, not cutting across the whole park,” he said.
He said a sound barrier could be put up to reduce sound pollution from the elevated cable-stayed bridge that will be passing on the fringes of the park.
Chow stressed that the state is continuously looking to improve the proposed alignment to minimise inconvenience and impacts to the communities.
PIL1 is a component under PTMP which is carried out by SRS Consortium.
SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong confirmed that the PIL1 alignment is a preliminary alignment.
“Once we get feedback, we will consider it before confirming the alignment and then only we will get detailed design,” he said.
Szeto also clarified that the blasting works to create the tunnels is by controlled chemical blasting with minimal vibrations.
“This is a new kind of explosives so as we blast, we will cast the tunnel every 100m so there is very low vibrations,” he said.
He stressed that before tunnelling works started, they will get the necessary approvals from all agencies including geotechnical experts to ensure the safety requirements are met.
Chow revealed that the proposed PIL1 will affect a total 226 buildings out of which 62 are residential, 30 commercial, four religious places, 48 minor structures and 82 squatters.
The Department of Environment (DOE) has extended the public feedback period for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Schedule 2) Report for PIL1 to September 7.
The public can still submit their written feedback on the PIL1 Highway to DOE before September 7.
Currently, there is only one north-south expressway in the island, the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, which Chow said is experiencing peak-hour congestion that is worsening.