GEORGE TOWN: After years of delays, construction of the elevated highway from Air Itam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway will start on Sept 1.
The highway is a vital road for some 300,000 Penangites living in the most densely populated part of the island.
The Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas announced the much-awaited date when opening the first meeting of the second session of the 14th State State Assembly yesterday.
“It is scheduled to begin on Sept 1 after all the technical approvals are obtained,” he said.
More than half of the population on the island’s northeast district, or almost 300,000 people, reside in Air Itam, Bandar Baru Air Itam and the adjoining Paya Terubong, and they only have two narrow routes out of their suburb, which are heavily congested during rush hour.
The 5.7km dual carriageway, with two lanes on each side and which 70% are elevated, will take them to the expressway and on to Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone in just five minutes under normal traffic conditions with a speed limit of 70kmph.
The highway will have three interchanges, allowing motorists to get on and off from Jalan Thean Teik, Jalan Yeap Chor Ee and Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. It is expected to be completed in three years.
Several roads in Kampung Pisang in Air Itam, are also undergoing road widening works to complement the upcoming bypass.
This and two other road projects are part of the island traffic dispersal system of the proposed Penang Undersea Tunnel, a 6.5km tunnel beneath the seabed between Gurney Drive on the island and Bagan Ajam in Butterworth.
The other two projects are the 12km North Coastal Paired Road between Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang and the 4.2km bypass connecting Gurney Drive to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, which are expected to be ready in 2022.
Abdul Rahman also said the state government plans to hold discussions with Prasarana Malaysia Berhad and Finance Ministry on the future of Penang’s ferry service.
“The state realises that this service must be upgraded, especially its frequency at peak hours but Prasarana is facing financial constraints,” he said.
In an exclusive report recently, The Star revealed that Prasarana has yet to received the RM90mil announced by the federal government in August to upgrade and maintain the ferry service.
It was reported that it costs RM31mil annually to provide the service but with only RM7mil collected in fees, Prasarana forks out RM24mil a year since it took over the service from Penang Port Sdn Bhd in May last year.