The Penang government has warned of possible traffic chaos on the roads leading to and from the second bridge just days before it is due to open, echoing similar concerns raised by non-governmental organisations.
State local government, traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said there was still no traffic dispersal system to ensure smooth traffic flow from the bridge.
This is because three major road upgrading projects in the southern part of the island near Batu Maung are far from completed, he said, and it was up to the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) to work out how to prevent traffic jams.
"The bridge will be officially opened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Saturday. However, there is still no announcement by the concessionaire Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd (JKSB) about a traffic dispersal system for the area," he told a press conference today.
Two of the projects are near the bridge interchange in Batu Maung. They are the upgrading of Jalan Permatang Damar Laut, which includes a new flyover and a roundabout at Southbay, and the upgrading of a stretch of the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway with an elevated highway from the interchange up to the Queensbay Mall area.
The RM165 million upgrading of Jalan Permatang Damar Laut, which started last July, is expected to be finished in July next year. The flyover project, which is part of the upgrade, is still in the design stage.
The elevated highway, however, has not started as the Public Works Department is still ironing out issues to take over the project from the Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM). If it had started in 2012, the project – which was estimated to cost between RM200 million to RM300 million when proposed – might be completed next year.
The third project is the widening of roads and the building of an elevated highway from Bayan Lepas to Teluk Kumbar near Gertak Sanggul to overcome the serious bottleneck issue in Bayan Lepas. The project kicked off last week and is expected to take 30 months to complete without any hiccups.
Chow said the three projects had been drawn up since two years ago to disperse traffic from the second bridge, but things did not move while the bridge was still under construction.
"The second bridge is to disperse traffic congestion on the first bridge. Now we will have to expect the flow of vehicles into the island to have an impact on local roads nearby," he said.
Chow said the state can only come up with short-term plans like localised traffic management to mitigate the anticipated traffic jams after the opening of the new bridge.
The MPPP will undertake measures like readjusting the traffic lights on the coastal Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway to ensure smoother traffic flow, he said.
"If we do not look into it, the traffic backflow may go all the way up to the Bukit Jambul roundabout and on the second bridge itself," he said, adding that the MPPP will monitor the traffic situation.
The 24km Second Penang Bridge, which cost RM4.5 billion, links Batu Maung on the island and Batu Kawan on the mainland.
Both locations are industrial areas with factories, surrounded by townships of residential and commercial developments.
NGOs like the Consumer Association of Penang argued that the bridge was not a good idea as it would bring more vehicles to the island and worsen its traffic congestion woes. – February 27, 2014.