do we need the second penang bridge?


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as part of our citizen/video journalism workshop, we had to do assignments. one of the assignment was to come out with an article on penang. i choose to write about the second penang bridge. please read about it in my citizen journalism blog, 'reflections'.  (updated: read from below instead)

in the meantime, do watch the video shot by lim, one of the members in our team, where the 4 of us go round interviewing and shooting (oops.i mean shooting video, please) people as i mentioned in this post of mine.

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DO WE NEED THE SECOND PENANG BRIDGE?
 
I travel to work daily to and fro, sometimes in a car, sometimes on a bus. Many times, I would be caught in a traffic jam during the office rush hours. When it rains, the traffic situation gets worst. Such is Penang’s traffic system. There are too many vehicles on the road.
 
People who travel between the island and the mainland of Penang will either use the Penang Bridge or the ferry service. As the traffic flow increase, traffic congestion become a headache for motorists. The government had come up with a solution to this – a third link, i.e. the second Penang Bridge… but will this really be the solution? Do we really need the second Penang Bridge?
 
The 2nd Penang bridge will link Batu Maung at the island to Batu Kawan at the mainland. It will be 24 km in length (17 km over the sea). The cost of building the bridge, originally was at RM2.7 billion when it was first mooted in July 2007 but it sky-rocketed to RM4.3 billion in April 2008. now on April 2008 said to be at RM4.3 billion.
 
There was no transparency in the awarding of tender for the second bridge. The government had awarded the concessionaire to build, manage, operate and maintain the second bridge to an UMNO-owned company, UEM Sdn Bhd, without tender.
 
The government’s plan to build the second Penang bridge is to solve traffic congestion moving in and out the island and the mainland, but why do we need to add a new infrastructure when we can improve on the existing infrastructure?
 
First of all, let’s look at the cost of the second Penang Bridge – at an astounding cost of RM4.3 billion.  Why, with just half of that cost, the money could be use to expand the existing ferry service and maybe build a cross-channel rail link, a better solution to the second Penang bridge.
 
Don’t forget the bridge will be a burden on your pocket too with your car’s  petrol usage (the bridge being 24 km) and the toll. Batu Maung in the island and Batu Kawan in the mainland where the bridge will be situated are way out of town area and residential area – and that requires a long journey again.
 
UEM in a letter to the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, had proposed the toll for the second bridge to be at RM9.40. The other proposals were that when the second bridge is ready, the existing bridge too should be increased to RM9.40 and the 20% discount for the Touch N’ Go card cancel. Not only that, they suggested no maximum rate for the second bridge hike! (source, Mysinchew online, March 2008)
 
The construction of the second Penang bridge will most probably hurt the fishing industry in the southeast of the island. As a result of land reclamation, their catches will be drastically reduced.  Then there is this matter of the construction consuming lots of raw materials which will give rise to global warming.
 
The second Penang Bridge will not  solve traffic congestion problem.  More vehicles will be using the bridge, which means bringing in more vehicles to the island. It will create  bottlenecks at the entrance and exit of the bridge.  More vehicles on the road means the roads getting more congested as many of the road in Penang are already congested, with no means of widening the roads. Has an independent EIA and traffic study to analyse the impact on surrounding areas and roads on the mainland and the island – been carried out for this project?
 
Building new roads and bridges will not solve traffic congestion problems in the long run. Sooner or later, such infrastructure will get congested again and we are back to square one. To solve traffic congestion, the solution is to have less traffic on the road.
How do we do that? Improve the existing public transport.  This will reduce dependency on private vehicles on the road, thus less traffic.  
 
With all the reasons given above, you should give a second thought to the second Penang bridge project. We don’t need it for sure. The existing Penang bridge already had been expanded to three lanes – a slight improvement in the traffic between the island/mainland is already solved.
 
Then the ferry service which had been in existence for over 20 years, surely can be improved and expanded. Other countries made full use of river transport. Penang being an island, surrounded by water, have a lot of potential in river transport. More ferry terminals should be set up at different points of the island and mainland so that the ferries can move across the channel at more than one point only, as it is now. Shuttle buses can then be introduced to fetch people to the terminals. Another alternative is to build a light rail link parallel to the existing first bridge. The rail link could then be connected by buses to urban centres and industrial areas in the island and mainland.
 
We should not add new infrastructures when we can improve on the existing infrastructures. I repeat again, adding new roads or bridges does not solve traffic congestion problem. The only way to solve traffic congestion problems is to reduce the number of vehicles on the road – private vehicles especially. In that instance, the government should come out with a comprehensive public transport plan for Penang.

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