THE upgrading of the Komtar overhead pedestrian bridge in George Town has finally begun.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the bridge at the Penang Road-Burmah Road-Dr Lim Chwee Leong Road junction would have escalators and lifts for the sake of the elderly and the disabled when the upgrade is completed in nine months to a year.
He said the RM6mil project was sponsored by Syarikat Ensignia Construction Sdn Bhd which would get a 25-year contract to lease out advertisement space on the bridge subject to conditions imposed by the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP).
He said Syarikat Ensignia, a subsidiary of property development company IGB Corporation Bhd, was sponsoring the project as part of its corporate social responsibility as returns obtained from the advertisements might not be able to cover the costs of the upgrade.
“The company, however, must reserve 20% of the advertising space on the bridge for state government notices (for free) while 5% of the revenue from the remaining advertisements will to be channelled to the council,” Guan Eng said in his speech at the launch of the project yesterday.
Also present were state Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng, Tanjong MP Ng Wei Aik, Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng, council president Datuk Patahiyah Ismail, Syarikat Ensignia executive director Lim Gik Chay and architect David Tan, who represented IGB Corporation Berhad.
Guan Eng also said Syarikat Ensignia had to maintain the escalators and lifts at the bridge at its own cost for 25 years.
Built in 1993, the structure has been dubbed the ‘octopus’ or ‘spider’ pedestrian bridge by Penangites.
As far back as July 2004, after concerns arose regarding the safety of pedestrians due to snatch thefts on the bridge, the then-Komtar assemblyman Datuk Lim Gim Soon had proposed that souvenir traders be allowed to set up stalls at the bridge as a safety measure.
In May 2010, the next Komtar assemblyman Ng Wei Aik (now Tanjong MP) announced that the bridge was set to come alive with street performances and kiosks following a feng shui tip that the structure needed to be ‘recharged’ but this plan was scrapped a month later as it was not viable.
MPPP in March 2011 called for tender for the setting up of kiosks on the bridge but nothing materialised.
The Penang government then conducted a public survey in May 2013 on whether to demolish the bridge.
Guan Eng said in October 2013 that the survey found that most people wanted the bridge to be retained.