GEORGE TOWN, Oct 11 — Construction of the much talked about RM851 million highway linking Thean Teik Expressway to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway here will begin on October 31 with a groundbreaking ceremony, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced today.

He said the project will take three years to complete.

“Once they start work on the highway, which is package two of the whole project, we can now work on the processes to implement package one, three and four,” he told a press conference at his office.

The highway is part of the RM6.3 billion project which consists of an undersea tunnel and three paired road packages.

Package one is a paired road between Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang, package two is a highway linking Gurney Drive to the Central Business District in George Town to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway while the final package is the undersea tunnel linking Gurney Drive to Butterworth on the mainland.

The Penang government signed a preliminary agreement with Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (CZC) in 2013 after calling for an open tender for the project.

Today, the state government signed a sub-agreement with CZC for the construction of package two.

Chow said package two, covering 5.7km, will connect the Ayer Itam portion of Thean Teik Expressway to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway near the Marine Department.

He said 70 per cent of the highway will be elevated.

“The total cost of the project is RM851,040,000 and will be implemented on a lump sum contract basis,” he said.

He also said two plots of land had already been transferred to CZC for feasibility studies to be conducted and detailed design works of the undersea tunnel and highways.

“With this agreement, the state will wait for a claim by the consortium before the land from Gurney Drive reclamation will be ready to be transferred to the consortium,” he said.

Chow added that the first part of the claim is in relation to the land acquisition costs for the project.

CZC is still in the process of negotiating land acquisitions and could not reveal the total costs involved just yet.

Chow said a portion of Gurney Wharf has been identified for consideration as payment for the highway construction.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the highways was approved on November 7 in 2017.

Chow said the highway project has to commence first before the EIA expires which was why the state decided that package two must commence by the end of this month.

The Penang state exco approved the signing of the sub-agreement for package two on October 2.

Works on package two will start at the Thean Teik Expressway first and it will by-pass housing areas and go across the hill to connect to Bukit Gambir Road, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah and ending at the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

The highway is expected to resolve the daily traffic gridlock along the busy Air Itam Road and cut traveling time for those coming from the Penang Bridge towards Air Itam.