BINTULU: Construction of the Pan Borneo Highway, a project first discussed when Malaysia was formed in 1963, begins Tuesday.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will launch the upgrading of an existing road to Bakun Dam from KM-32 of the Bintulu-Miri trunk road.
Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof are also set to be present.
The building will continue in segments in the third quarter of this year, starting from Tanjung Datu, the western most tip of Sarawak.
The 40km portion will bring road connectivity for the first time between Tanjung Datu and Sematan, which is represented by Adenan.
It is scheduled for completion by end of 2018.
At the same time, the entire 740km stretch from Sematan to Miri, in northern Sarawak, will begin construction in the third quarter of 2016, and is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2023.
The Tedungan to Merapok portion, which is the portion of Sarawak sandwiched between Brunei, will begin in early 2018. It is also scheduled for completion in early 2023.
The Pan Borneo Highway will mostly follow the route of the existing trunk road. It involves the widening of the present 3m wide single-carriageway into a dual-carriageway.
Currently the condition of the trunk road requires major maintenance, due to heavy usage across its single lane. Road travel is slow, estimated at 19 hours between Sematan and Miri.
According to a Government study of the North South Expressway in
Peninsular Malaysia, highway construction induces a multiplier effect of four times to the economy.
Previously the highway was slated for completion in 2025 under the Highway Network Development Plan.
The Prime Minister in his Budget 2015 speech had announced that the construction of the highway would be fast-tracked under a public-private-partnership implementation model. The cost was estimated at RM27bil.