One of the reasons why I am against the SRS proposals for Penang transport infrastructure is the literally over-the-top plan for an RM8bn 19.5km north-south highway that will actually cross over the Penang Hill railway. This idea could have come straight out of Fantasy Island.
What? You didn’t know that it would fly over the Penang Hill railway? How come they didn’t tell you this?
As we are not allowed to take photographs of the 20 volumes of the SRS proposals which were finally put on display at the Dewan Sri Pinang after much pressure, the above is a Penang Forum artist’s impression of what this ‘amazing’ flyover wlll look like. (Now you know why they don’t allow cameras in!)
Can you imagine the piling work on the hills, the forest clearings along the route and the carbon emissions from the highway?
If that’s not bad enough, the plan for this highway, originally meant to be four lanes in all at a cost of close to RM6bn, was expanded to six lanes on who-knows-what grounds. The estimated cost jumped to around RM8bn. What’s a couple of billion here or there. Say goodbye to the Penang you once knew.
All this is to be financed by the sale of 4,500 acres of land reclamation to build three artificial islands off the southern coast of Penang Island for mostly high-end property development. If all this sounds bewildering, it is because it is.
This is the route of the highway, covering seven main stretches and half a dozen interchanges:
1) From Gurney Expressway via Bagan Jermal Road and Gottlieb Road (see artist’s impression below) to the edge of Youth Park (1.4km);
2) A tunnel from near the Youth Park to Taman Cantik in Air Itam (2.8km);
3) An elevated stretch hugging the hill above Air Itam flying over the Penang Hill railway and an area behind the Kek Lok Si (2.0km);
4) A tunnel from an area not far from Kek Lok Si to near Emerald Heights Condo/the Hokkien cemetery in Paya Terubong;
5) An elevated highway from the Paya Terubong interchange along a new corridor, the Paya Terubong Highway;
6) A tunnel from around the Taman Suria Vista areas in Paya Terubong to Jalan Tun Sardon, Sungai Ara (2.3km);
7) A tunnel from Sungai Ara to the Lim Chong Eu Expressway via Desa Ara.
The entire 19.5km highway, which includes 7.4km of tunnels, is expected to affect about 74 homes and shops, which are euphemistically referred to as “encumbrances”.
So essentially, Phase 1 of the SRS proposal, which covers the period until 2022-23, is mainly made up of this RM8bn “Pan Island Link” highway and the almost-as-expensive RM6bn Komtar to Airport elevated LRT line. Hardly the most progressive thinking in terms of public transport and sustainable mobility.
Good luck, Penang! With all these tunnels and hill-hugging highway stretches, you will need it. At least these outlandish plans will give you something to talk about over the Lunar New Year holidays.