COUNCILLORS, commercial traders and even residents of Port Klang have cast serious doubts over the multi-million ringgit North-West Port Road bridge reconstruction project to revive the town once popular with sailors and tourists.
Construction is ongoing from Jalan Kem stretching 1.4km to the Port Klang Authority complex where cranes and huge machines for construction can be seen.
According to a state Public Works Department (JKR) engineer the reconstruction of the bridge was to facilitate the high movement of hauliers from South Port and North Port.
Costing close to RM190mil, the project had caused anger among the locals as most of them want a large scale project to rejuvenate the township of Port Klang.
Closure of main thoroughfares, several U-turns and access points to facilitate smooth progress of the construction had resulted in congestion along Jalan Kem heading to the port areas.
Motorists are caught in traffic congestion during office rush hour and, at times, traffic is at a standstill.
Furthermore, Jalan Kem is known as a high-risk road with hauliers moving on the dual carriageway causing road accidents which sometimes end up with fatalities.
Motorists coming from Persiaran Raja Muda Musa, Jalan Tengku Badar and Jalan Raja Lumu are forced to take detours.
Traders at the Port Klang wet market and the commercial business area have described the reconstruction of the bridge as “a second death knell” for the business communities.
According to JKR engineers, the project was scheduled to complete in October but has now been extended until October next year.
Hardware shop owner Teoh Chian Wah, 57, said the reconstruction, which began in September last year, had caused most of the consumers to shun the area.
“Business for me has seen a 70% drop.
“It is difficult to make ends meet. Motorists coming into Jalan Depoh have to travel 3.3km from the junction of Persiaraan Raja Muda Musa to the edge of Jalan Kem before making a U-turn to get to the wet market area,” he said.
Hainanese restaurant owner Tan Ah Ting, 61, lamented that the construction and changes to traffic movement into Jalan Kem had caused a slump in business.
“Only the devoted foodies who love Hainanese chicken chop or noodles still brave the traffic.
“My business is down by 30%, with the current tough economic times, we are being hit further by this,” he added.
SRK St. Anne’s Convent Port Klang Parent-Teacher Association chairman Arunaghiri Nathan Kannan said he was concerned over the run-down image of Port Klang.
“After the elevated highway was built over Jalan Kem into North Port, the development and economic activities took a back seat.
“With the reconstruction of the bridge, motorists struggled with the traffic jams,” he said.
Arunaghiri added that rows of dilapidated shophouses with wild vegetation, woody tropical trees sprouting from cracks and crevices of ramshackle colonial buildings along Jalan Kem had become an eyesore.
“Creepy crawlies and pests like snakes and rats thrive in these buildings and it is also sometimes used as a hideout for criminals and drug addicts.
“Garbage and broken bottles collects water and this contributes to the dengue outbreak in the area,” he said.
Arunaghiri said the garbage in the derelict building’s could have been left there by scavengers who used the place as a sorting area.
“The Klang Municipal Council (MPK) has the power to seal the land or building, barring access and imposing fines and other enforcement actions on the owner.
“I want the council’s health department to take the necessary steps to preserve and promote public health and prevent or remedy any nuisance or condition likely to be dangerous to public well-being,” he said.
Arunaghiri, who is also a councillor, added that in the next full board meeting he would move a motion that MPK, as a local authority, execute powers in relation to public nuisance and people’s well-being under the Local Government Act 1976 Section 72 and cut down ficus trees growing on the abandoned buildings along Jalan Kem.
Another councillor Azmizam Zaman Huri, who sits in the council’s infrastructure sub-committee, said most of the colonial shoplots in Jalan Kem are run-down and they were privately owned.
“Yes, it gives a bad image to the town.
“MPK’s legal department must find a way to acquire the properties and transform it into an urban limited commercial strip that will encourage economic activities,” he said.
“Urban planners at the council must come up with plans to transform Port Klang into a leisure and cultural hotspot on a sustainable template.
“I feel sad when I reminisce what Port Klang used to be.
“It was active with locals and even sailors coming to the town,” he said.
Azmizam added that Port Klang being the 12th largest container port in the world had so much potential and efforts must be carried out to unlock the value.
“But we have so much unresolved ownership issues of abandoned properties,” he said.
He added that the issue of potholes along Jalan Persiaraan Raja Muda Musa, Jalan Kem and the port roads needed to be resurfaced to the correct specifications to cater for hauliers and larger vehicles.
“All these roads are under the Federal Government and we want the Works Ministry to address the terrible conditions of the roads.
“On cleanliness, the council is taking all efforts with sweepers engaged to clean up the roads, around the clock,” he said.
SJK(T) Watson Port Klang Board of Governors vice-chairman Sugumaran A. Sundram, who is also a resident in Pandamaran New Village, said Port Klang suffered a natural death after the elevated highway came up 15 years ago and this was because there was no detailed master plan.
“For Port Klang to be revived, we need a master plan that details an urban regeneration for its people.
“On an economic point, it is hard times.
“But I believe with a public-private partnership formed in which businesses contribute to the cost of urban regeneration.”
“We need to come up with a course of action and propose a plan that will see redevelopment,” he said.