Penang exco assures residents of safety measures at highway project site on hill slopes
GEORGE TOWN, March 24 — The Penang government said safety measures will be implemented to prevent any untoward incidents at the construction site of the RM851 million Package Two highway that cuts through Bukit Hijau on the island.
Penang Infrastructure and Transport executive councillor Zairil Khir Johari said the state has taken note of the concerns raised by affected residents, especially those living near the hill slopes where the construction is now underway.
“Precaution measures implemented at the construction site includes covering the slopes with tarpaulin or geotextile, which will only be uncovered during working hours,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
He said boulders were also being broken down to prevent any incidents at the area.
“There is also a buffer zone between the project's boundary line (reserve of work) and the residential area,” he said.
He said temporary drainage and retention pond are also in place to ensure that the construction site is safe.
“The safety measures of this project is of utmost importance and I hold site meetings on this project every month to ensure everything is in accordance with safety regulations,” he said.
Zairil was asked to respond to concerns raised by residents living near the construction of the highway which connects Lebuhraya Thean Teik in Air Itam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.
Yesterday, residents from condominiums located next to the highway construction works, together with civil organisation Penang Forum, held a press conference to voice concerns over the safety of the project due to its precarious location on steep hill slopes.
Penang Forum member Khoo Salma questioned if the highway plans had changed to include tunnels as previously it only had viaducts and at-grade level roads.
Zairil said there will now be three tunnels, at three different locations, and a supplementary environmental impact assessment (EIA) is being prepared now.
“The tunnelling work will only begin after all the safety requirements are met,” he said.
He said this is to ensure the impact of the project is minimal for the benefits of all users of the bypass when it is completed.
He said the tunnels were only short tunnels of between 200 metres to 400 metres each and the addition of tunnels are more environmentally-friendly compared to having long sections of viaducts.
He said the Environmental Management Plan to create temporary working sites on the ground above the sections for tunnelling was approved in October 2022.
The Package Two highway has already obtained prior EIA approval, he said.
“So, all the current on-going work on the hill are implemented according to the received approval,” he said.
“We hope to get the supplementary EIA for the tunnels approved in the next few months so that we can start tunnelling which will be using a drill and blast method,” he added.
On the residents' request for a town hall session to be held on the project, Zairil said the state government, the Seri Delima assemblyman Syerleena Abdul Rashid, and the developer had held numerous engagement sessions with residents in the area since 2018.
“Engagement sessions with residents including town hall meetings have already been conducted as early as September and December 2018,” he said.
He said the most recent one was held in January this year and it was attended by the professionals and technical personnel from the contractor, representative from the office of the Bukit Bendera MP, and the Penang Island City Council councillor.
Besides engagement sessions, the state government has also conducted sixteen roadshows on the weekends from May until November 2022 to provide information to the public regarding the Penang Transport Master Plan, which includes Package Two, he added.
Package Two is one of the packages under the RM6.3 billion three major roads and undersea tunnel project.
A map of the under-construction Package Two highway linking Lebuhraya Thean Teik in Air Itam and the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway — Picture courtesy of the Penang government
The 6km highway will consist of a mix of elevated sections, tunnels and at-grade sections with three interchanges; Interchange One at Lebuhraya Thean Teik, Interchange Two at Jalan Bukit Gambir-Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah and Interchange Three at Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway with a left in-left out junction and an elevated U-turn.
Zairil said currently, the project is at 30 per cent completion rate.
The construction started in February 2021 and is expected to be completed in 2025.
He said members of the public can contact the contractor during office hours at 04-8244575 if they have any questions regarding the project.