Outcry over third bridge

GEORGE TOWN: Replacing the controversial undersea tunnel with an elevated bridge as the third link for Penang has not gone down well with Malaysians and this has led to an outcry.

When The Star broke the news yesterday about a proposal for a RM3bil 5km bridge to replace the undersea tunnel, many took to social media to express their concern.

Netizens questioned whether Penang was in need of a third link when the state already has two bridges.

Some also asked about the feasibility report for the undersea tunnel which, until today, has not been released.

“Even the second bridge is void of cars during the pandemic. Why do we need a third link now? Money should be spent on other important things like medical equipment to fight Covid-19,” said Ben.

Facebook user Phan Gaik Cher said the state government must get its priority right.

“The funds should instead be earmarked for flood mitigation projects, (the resurfacing of) horrible potholed patchwork roads in the state and keeping the state clean,” she said.

Riduan Matni said a feasibility study would have picked this up at the very start.

“Wasn’t one done at a cost of over RM300mil and paid for with land?

“And wasn’t the report still not ready until today despite the land being discharged to the consultant and condos built and sold by the developer already (seven years now, I think). Just curious,” Riduan asked.“As a Penangite, the state already has two bridges, we don’t need the 3rd bridge,” said Elric Chuah.

Many had also touched on the ferry service which they say is better than the proposed elevated bridge or the undersea tunnel.

“Instead of the two projects, why not restart the ferry service?” asked Tan Tienaik.

“Penang’s first landmark was the ferry service and it was nostalgic and should be maintained.

“If you go to Venice, you would not like to miss the gondola ride, or if you go to Srinagar Kashmir, you would not like to miss the boathouse. Likewise, if you go to Penang, never miss the ferry ride,” Ishmael Keturah said.

However, James Wong begged to differ, saying that the proposed third bridge is needed to close the poverty gap.

“The state government needs it for future development.”

Yesterday, The Star front-paged a report about ECK Development group saying that it was more viable to build a bridge because it is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than the undersea tunnel.

The group recently acquired a majority stake in Consortium Zenith Construction, which is the special purpose vehicle to undertake the undersea tunnel project.

It is understood that the bridge alternative will cost about RM3bil, half the cost of the RM6.3bil undersea tunnel.

State Environment Department (DOE) director Sharifah Zakiah Syed Sahab said they would need to evaluate the extent of the environmental and social impact of the newly proposed elevated bridge.

“I expect them to submit all the details of the project for us to review.

“The Environmental Impact Assessment studies are required for any development like this,” she said when contacted.

On the proposed alternative bridge, Sharifah said the third bridge might be beneficial to the state in terms of tourism and business in the future.

“However, it is important that the said project must be studied thoroughly and if there is any negative impact, we must find mitigation solutions,” she added.

The tunnel project has been mired in controversy from the time it was announced in 2011.

The locals were concerned about the impact on the livelihood of fishermen as well as coastline erosion.

Meanwhile, the Penang Fishermen Association reminded the state government to protect the livelihood of all the fishermen in that area as their members were already suffering due to the pandemic.

Association chairman Mahadi Mat Rodzi said that before any mega project is planned, the government must consider the impact on marine life, the ecosystem and also the environment.

“We will object to any project that harms marine life as this would have a permanent impact on our livelihood,” he said.

Mahadi said the association would be getting more input from the fishermen to see how they could best respond to the newly proposed project.

The elevated bridge suggests connecting Gurney Drive and Jalan Teluk Ayer Tawar, linking the bridge to the proposed Northern Corridor Highways (NCH) which is under the 12th Malaysia Plan.

The 12MP is expected to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.

The NCH comprises the 77km Sungai Petani-Serdang route, the 25.5km Bandar Baru-Batu Kawan route, and 37km Bandar Baharu-Changkat Jering route.

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