GEORGE TOWN: Motorists using the Penang Bridge will have to grit their teeth for a year, as one lane on the bridge will be closed from Tuesday to Aug 21 next year.
One lane on each side will be closed for six months, while another will be closed for four hours daily to make a contraflow lane during peak hours. The shut-off stretches are 1.4km to 1.7km long.
With the bridge already notorious for its traffic crawl during rush hours, commuters and businessmen are bemoaning the prospect of year-long traffic snarls.
From Tuesday to Feb 21, the outermost lane on the mainland-bound side will be closed between kilometres 6.8 and 5.4.
From 4pm to 8pm daily, a lane on the other side will be closed to create a contraflow lane for the mainland-bound side.
From Feb 22 to Aug 21 next year, it will be the island-bound side’s turn, with the outermost lane closed between kilometres 4.1 and 5.8.
From 6am to 10am daily, one lane on the mainland-bound direction will be used for contraflow for the island-bound rush hour traffic.
PLUS Malaysia Bhd chief operating officer Mohammad Fuad Khusairi told a press conference yesterday that the year-long closures were for bridge maintenance, which were required every four years.
About 82,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
Mohammad Fuad advised all users to plan ahead during the closures, saying they could also use the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge or the ferry service.
However, bridge users are already pessimistic and predicting terrible jams.
“Thousands of workers will be late for work and movement of goods will be affected,” said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Dr Ooi Eng Hock.
“Do they know how business is done? Trains, ships and factory production lines have fixed schedules, but the bridge authority announced this just days before the closure.”
He said the second Penang bridge was too far and would mean higher toll payments.