If you think Penang is already congested, well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
Three more lanes of traffic will pour into Penang Island once the second bridge is completed by 2013, if all goes as scheduled – adding to the three lanes of incoming traffic on the now widened existing Penang Bridge.
And if the cross-channel tunnel project from Gurney Drive to Butterworth goes ahead, which could add another two or three lanes of incoming traffic, we could see eight to nine lanes of incoming traffic choking the island by 2020.
Click on the icon at the bottom right to expand the slideshow to full-screen mode
I dread to think of the congestion in Penang by then.
A group of local engineers and I took a boat trip to survey the progress of the 16.7km second Penang bridge.
One for the album: First and second bridge engineers: Former first Penang Bridge chief resident engineer Liaw Yew Peng, 81, with second Penang bridge chief engineer Loh of China Harbour Engineering Company at the CHEC site office on the island
Basic background information of second bridge:
Length over water: 16.7km
Overall length: 23km
Height of bridge above water at highest point: 35.6 metres (to allow ships to pass underneath)
Project cost: RM4.5b
Steel piles: 7800
Starting point on island: Batu Maung (not far from the DHL facility along the Bayan Lepas coastal highway)
Starting point on the mainland: Batu Kawan (not far from the Batu Kawan Stadium and next to Patrick Lim’s now aborted equestrian centre)
Speed limit when complete: 80km/h
But before construction could begin, the plan was changed to three lanes each way and no dedicated motorcycle lane. Let’s hope one of these three lanes can be dedicated to public transport.
Progress of work
Main contractors: CHEC and UEM.
Scheduled completion date of bridge: March 2013
Progress of substructure (piling and pier work): This portion of the bridge is handled by CHEC, involving 200 workers. About 70 per cent of the substructure is now complete. The work is scheduled to take 33 months – already 23 months have passed; another 10 months remain.
Whether the bridge can be completed as schedule will depend on UEM, which has to put up, lego-like, the box girder beams above the completed piling/piers that CHEC has put in place. So far, just one stretch has been put up.
Overall progress: The CHEC chief engineer said the work on the second bridge is 40-50 per complete. A more conservative estimate might put it at 20 per cent.
Other points of interest
I asked a CHEC engineer if the second bridge was quake resistant and if so, what level it could take. He replied, yes, the bridge could absorb quakes of up to 8.0.
The piling goes 78 metres below the sea-bed. The cement mix used is Grade 50 cement plus river sand from Sungai Perak, transported up to the site on 580-tonne barges.
The sea is really shallow – varying from six to 11 metres deep. One engineer told me this was probably the result of siltation arising from land reclamation north of the island. In comparison, the sea around Penang Port is being deepened to around 20 metres.
We really need to move away from private vehicle usage and promote greater use of public transport. Putting in place insfrastructure for motor vehicles actually means encouraging more people to use cars. There is a limit to the number of cars our little congested Penang Island can take before life becomes intolerable and the quality of life plummets.