GEORGE TOWN: Upon completion, the proposed Pan Island Link (PIL) highway will be able to share the heavy traffic load of the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (LCE), while the proposed Bayan Lepas LRT will be the rail backbone of Penang's future public transport system.
The projects, which are the first components under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), are targeted at addressing the critical traffic congestion on the island.
SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong said the LRT would provide alternative public transport for target ridership of half a million of the island's current 750,000 residents.
He assured the public that the Bayan Lepas LRT would be built with minimal environment and social impact to the island.
The proposed LRT alignment begins from Komtar and will end at the Penang International Airport, running along LCE and Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. The total alignment length is approximately 20km.
Szeto pointed out that both the LCE and Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah have wide road reserves which could accommodate the LRT line.
'The LRT will run along existing road corridors and there will be minimal land acquisition,' he said yesterday.
Similarly, the PIL which starts at the Second Penang Bridge and ends at Gurney Drive will be mainly elevated structures and tunnels. It will not pose impact to the environment.
'It will not have deep cuts and embankments that require significant earth works,' he said.
Szeto said the LRT would serve low-income areas such as Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Batu Maung as well as high-density locations such as Ghaut Street Flats and Sinar Bukit Dumbar Apartment, whose residents stand to benefit from efficient public transportation.
The LRT will also pass critical transport, commercial and employment nodes on the island, which includes George Town, Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal, Penang International Airport, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone.
'The proposed LRT will be able to cater to high-volume passengers during morning and evening peak hours on the island, and help reduce congestion along LCE,' he said.
The LRT's connectivity will be complemented by a comprehensive feeder bus network to further its reach within the communities.
Szeto said the PIL, which would be approximately 20km long, would also connect to Teluk Kumbar and Balik Pulau.
There will be six interchanges at key locations: LCE, Jalan Tun Dr Awang, Relau, Paya Terubong, Gottlieb Road and the Gurney Expressway.
He said once the PIL is completed, the estimated journey time between the Second Penang Bridge and George Town would only take 15 minutes compared to the current 45 minutes.
The proposed funding for the PTMP will be carried out from the reclamation of sea land '“ forming two new islands in the southern coast of Penang Island.
The two man-made islands located near Permatang Damar Laut will be known as the South Reclamation Scheme (SRS), spanning 930ha and 485ha.
A third plot of 323ha reclaimed land next to the two islands has also been identified if there is a future demand for land activities.
Szeto said concerns that the reclamation would impact negatively on the environment was misplaced.
He pointed out that the southern coast is no longer a pristine, unexplored zone as the enlarging population of Penang Island had already started to move south.
Bayan Lepas and Teluk Kumbar, he said, have been seeing signs of booming development with many residential projects.
'As seen in the last five years, the expanding peripheral of George Town from rapid urbanisation has led to a pick-up in development activities in the south coast, especially near the airport and the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ),' he said.
He said the proposed reclaimed islands would provide land space for the expansion of the FIZ, employment opportunities and a comfortable living environment served by an efficient transport system.
'It will be home to the expanded electrical and electronics cluster in the Bayan Lepas FIZ where MNCs and SMEs form a strong supply chain cluster which has been developed in the last 40 years. Some of the SMEs are now global contract manufacturers,' he said.
While some 30,000 affordable homes would be built on the islands, Szeto said the reclaimed islands would boast a range of public amenities that could enhance the quality of life of residents.
Among the planned public facilities are a sports arena, museum, convention centre and a performing arts centre.
To promote a greener and healthier Penang, streets on the islands will have dedicated bicycle lanes and covered pedestrian walkways. Some 15% of the total reclaimed land space or 283ha will be reserved as green lungs comprising coastal parks, tree-lined boulevards and water features. The islands will have a 5km-long continuous stretch of sandy beach.
The state government will be the sole owner of the reclaimed islands, and development of parcels of land will be carefully phased out in a coordinated manner to regulate property prices.
'A strategy of controlled supply will be adopted so that all homes, commercial and industrial projects will be rolled out in sustainable manner according to the masterplan development blueprint agreed by the state government,' he said.