Penang to swap prime land for three highways and sea tunnel

The Penang government will pay developers with prime land around the Gurney Drive tourist belt to construct three bypass highways and a sea tunnel linking the island to the mainland costing around RM8bil.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the mega project will be the state's biggest infrastructure exercise and is meant to resolve the island's severe traffic congestion problem.

The proposed traffic alleviation projects are a 6.5km sea tunnel connecting Gurney Drive to the northern side of Butterworth, a 4.2km road from Gurney Drive to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu expressway bypassing the city centre, a 4.6km road linking Bandar Baru Air Itam to the same expressway and a 12km dualcarriage road from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang to pair with the existing coastal road.

“We estimate that the project will cost RM5bil to RM8bil depending on the bids from prospective contractors,” he told a press briefing here yesterday.

He said the “competitive land swap” payment will be a win-win situation for both the government and the developers.

“The government does not have to pay money and the developer gets prime land that will triple in value after the projects take place. This is smart economics,” he said.

He added that developers could also propose to implement toll payments to recover costs.

A pre-qualification exercise will be issued today on the Penang government website and a briefing will be held in the state on Nov 29 for interested bidders.

Lim explained that the project would undergo a lengthy feasibility study and construction is only expected to commence in 2015.

“We target the completion to be in 2020, although it can be earlier,” he said.

In GEORGE TOWN, non-governmental organisations have called on the state government to wait for the state Transportation Master Plan to be completed before proceeding with the proposed sea tunnel.

Society of Logisticians Malaysia president Chang Kah Loon said a consultant had been paid some RM3.2mil to prepare the master plan, which is expected to be ready by March so it “doesn't make sense” not to refer to it.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohd Idris demanded for details of the project.

“Where exactly is this piece of land located? Will it be reclaimed land? Because if that is the case, SAM is against it because it will adversely impact the fishing community,” he said. - By Joseph Kaos Jr and Christinac Hin (The Star)

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