The Second Penang Bridge, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, has Penangites and out-of-state visitors all excited about using it for the first time.
WITH less than one per cent of work to go before its completion, the RM4.5bil Second Bridge has created much excitement among Penangites and out of-state visitors hoping to be among the first to travel on the country’s spanking new bridge.
Originally scheduled to open last week, the 24km bridge, the longest in South-East Asia, is now targeted to complete before the year-end.
According to Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd (JKSB) public relations and communications deputy manager Azizi Azizan, the remaining works on the bridge are “tedious and tough”.
Small fittings such as lighting, drainage and wiring are now being carried out on the bridge, which links Batu Kawan on the mainland with Batu Maung.
Ranked among the Top 20 bridges in the world, the second Penang bridge was built with the aim of reducing the current traffic on the 13.5km Penang Bridge by 25%.
JKSB is a special purpose vehicle set up by the Government to supervise the construction of the second Penang bridge which kicked off on Nov 8, 2008. The bridge’s marine structure was constructed by UEM Builders Bhd and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).
Last month, a load test was carried out at the 475m cable-stayed bridge, to ascertain its load capacity and 17 trailer trucks ferrying concrete boulders weighing 595 tonnes were stationed along the 240m stretch at the main span of the cable-stayed bridge.
“The second bridge can cater up to 100,000 vehicles a day,” Azizi says, adding that there will be a dedicated motorcycle lane to separate the cars from the two-wheelers.
For James Cornelius, 27, who rides his motorcycle from his Bukit Mertajam home to his office in Bayan Lepas on the island, the added feature is good news.
“It will help to ensure the safety of motorcyclists like me on the bridge,” he says, adding that he also looks forward to the one-month of free rides. It was recently announced that the bridge will be toll-free for the first month after it opens.
Cornelius, who now uses the Penang Bridge, believes he can save at least 15 minutes travelling time each way if he uses the Second Bridge.
“Even on a motorcycle, it takes me up to an hour to get to the office,” he shares.
The Second Bridge, which links Batu Kawan on the mainland to Batu Maung on the island, is also seen as convenient for those working in Batu Kawan.
Boon Siew Honda Sdn Bhd (Penang headquarters and factory) general manager Ooi Choon Beng, 41, who stays in Gurney Drive on the island and works in Batu Kawan, says he plans to use the new bridge for a week to gauge his travelling time.
“I will then decide if it actually saves time. Now I find the first bridge convenient although it takes up to 25 minutes from the office to reach it on the mainland side.
“The Second Bridge is very near my office but I am worried about the high volume of traffic on the Batu Maung side and the longer route home,” he says.
Civil servant Nurul Hanis Izmir, 28, who works in Kuala Lumpur says she cannot wait to show off the new bridge to her KL colleagues. “My friends love to visit Penang for the food, so I hope we can try the new bridge together,” says Nurul, who is back in her hometown, Butterworth for a holiday.
“I will definitely want to drive at least once on the new bridge just for the experience before returning to KL. Then, I can get to compare the drive and scenery with what I experience on the Penang Bridge,” she says, adding that the new bridge is set to create another icon for Penang.
Those in the tourism industry are similarly optimistic that the Second Bridge will be another tourist attraction for Penang which is already rich in heritage.
Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (Atap) chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng says the new bridge is definitely a modern feature that Penangites can be proud of.
“When tourists come here, they can enjoy our two bridges, which are the first and second longest bridges in the region. Not many countries have such features,” he points out.
Housewife Catherine Yap, 67, fondly recalls the first time she drove on the Penang Bridge when it opened to motorists back in 1985.
“I was driving alone on my way to the island for my research work. It was such a thrill then to drive on the third-longest bridge in the world and I kept looking to the right and left, drinking in the sight of the sea, the boats and the scenery,” says Yap who was then working with a market research company.
“Now, I’m looking forward to driving on the Second Bridge, which is even longer than the Penang Bridge.”
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang branch chairman Khoo Cheok Sin believes the new bridge will help the state prosper further as it provides greater accessibility for not just the people but also the transportation of goods.
“Apart from drawing more tourists, the second bridge will further create new investment opportunities in Penang,” he opines.
The opening of the new bridge is also reason to rejoice for those who have purchased properties on either end of the link.
Property consultant Michael Geh says properties in areas around Teluk Kumbar, Teluk Tempoyak and Balik Pulau on the island can expect to see good appreciation in prices.
“For the Seberang Prai side, the impact may be even more positive as property prices there are lower,” he observes.
On traffic concerns, Geh says there should be an effective “people-mover system” such as the LRT or monorail to reduce traffic jams.
Despite the excitement over the bridge’s opening, there are however folks who feel a bit reluctant to use the bridge due to the ramp collapse incident a few months ago. On June 6, former policeman Tajudin Zainal Abidin, 45, was pinned under slabs of steel and concrete when one of the ramps connected to the Second Bridge in Batu Maung collapsed and crushed his car.
Entrepreneur Jennifer Lim, 26, says the bridge authorities should assure the public on measures taken to ensure the safety of the structure. Lim, from Bukit Mertajam, however has no qualms and plans to use the bridge to visit her friends in Batu Maung.
Michael Lourdes, 64, a clerk with a legal firm, hopes that the opening of the new bridge will not affect the Penang ferry operations.
“I stay in Simpang Ampat and my work requires me to go to George Town, so the ferry is more convenient for me rather than the bridge,” he says.
A. Ugasciny, 26, an engineer based in KL, says she would use the bridge to go shopping on the island when visiting her family in Bukit Mertajam.
“It is not convenient for me to use this bridge because of the location. But it is a new addition to the state and I would like to experience it,” she says.
Batu Maung folks braced for impending development