Penang proposes 10km tunnel for RM7.5b highway project

Chow said PIL 1 is designed as a need-based highway to enhance road hierarchy and significantly improve regional traffic dispersal on the island. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Chow said PIL 1 is designed as a need-based highway to enhance road hierarchy and significantly improve regional traffic dispersal on the island. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, July 13 — Penang today revealed plans for a 10km-long tunnel that will cut through hills as part of the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) to alleviate traffic congestion on the island.

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow said PIL 1 will allow traffic to go directly from Gurney Drive to Gottlieb Road, Youth Park, Sungai Keluang and the Second Penang Bridge.

He said instead of building a highway cutting across the island from the north to south, about 70 per cent of the 19.5km PIL 1 will be tunnels going through hills to avoid the cutting of trees and forcing the eviction of residents along the route.

“PIL 1 will allow motorists to travel from north to south in 15 minutes when currently it takes more than 30 minutes travelling time,” he said.

He said the only available north-south expressway in Penang island is the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

He said traffic studies have revealed that the expressway is experiencing peak-hour congestion due to high traffic volume.

“Traffic conditions are expected to worsen if intervention measures are not implemented,” he said.

He said PIL 1 is designed as a need-based highway to enhance road hierarchy and significantly improve regional traffic dispersal on the island.

“It is needed to cater for the envisioned 60 per cent modal share for private vehicle even though the state targets to achieve 40 per cent public transport modal share,” he said.

Once completed, Chow said PIL 1 will be a strategic bypass for traffic dispersal especially during peak hour travel.

The highway will be toll-free.

He said the project will be challenging as it will cut through the hills in Bukit Bendera, Paya Terubong and Sungai Ara.

“It will cut across the Youth Park which is unavoidable, it is a necessary alignment so it will be a 250m elevated highway above the park,” he said.

He said the project delivery partner, SRS Consortium, proposed that a long-span cable-stay bridge go across the park with only two pillars so as not to spoil the green lung of the park that is a popular spot for recreational activities.

As for the portion where it cuts across the Penang Hill, there will be minimal tree cutting as it will be a tunnel cut through the hill at 100m below the top of the hill.

Around 234 premises will be affected along the whole length of the 19.5km PIL 1, he added.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Second Schedule Report on the proposed PIL 1 highway project is now on public display.

The EIA was submitted to the Department of Environment (DOE) for approval on May 7 and is now being displayed to gather public feedback as part of the procedures under the EIA guidelines in Malaysia.

Chow, who visited the public display of the EIA, said the report will be on display to the public for 30 days from July 11 until August 10.

He said public feedback will be collected and the state’s responses will be included in the final EIA report for the project to the DOE.

The proposed PIL 1, estimated to cost RM7.5 billion, will be implemented under the first phase of the massive RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

The public can view the EIA at eight locations in Penang, at the DOE in Putrajaya and the national library in Kuala Lumpur.

The EIA report can also be viewed online at doe.gov.my, penang.gov.my, pgmasterplan.penang.gov.my and wirandamsdnbhd.com.

The public can submit feedback and comments to the DOE before August 24.

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