BALIK PULAU, May 22 – A proposed third bridge to replace the undersea tunnel is unnecessary as traffic flow on the second bridge is still low. Balik Pulau Member of Parliament, Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the second bridge connecting Batu Maung on the island and Batu Kawan on the mainland was under-utilised as currently the bridge had only 40 per cent traffic volume.
“We do not need a third bridge as the population of our state is low with the approximately 700,000 people living on the island and one million on the mainland,” he said during the Balik Pulau fishing competition at Pantai Pasir Panjang, here, Saturday.
Dr Hilmi, who is also Deputy Health Minister, said the proposed third bridge would link Gurney Drive in George Town to Bagan Ajam in Butterworth, both being congested areas, so linking the two areas would increase the traffic flow, hence causing more congestion.
On Friday, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in his winding-up speech at the state assembly sitting said that if the federal government approved the third bridge proposal, the state government would drop entirely the undersea tunnel project. Lim also said that the third bridge would be toll-free for its users if the project were to go through.
Dr Hilmi said building roads and bridges would only ease the traffic problem for a short while before it became worse again, so the only way to ease traffic congestion was by improving the public transport as suggested in the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
“Building the light rail transit (LRT) and monorail is a good option but the state needs to find an alternative way to fund it and not by reclaiming land in Permatang Damar Laut. Permatang Damar Laut is a haven for fish and many other aquatic lives, so if the land reclamation goes through, it will destroy not only the environment but also the livelihood of thousands of families,” he said.
Dr Hilmi highlighted that the federal government had spent billions to build infrastructural facilities in Kuala Lumpur, so it was not possible for the state to fund everything on its own. He said building infrastructural facilities for public transport is not profitable, and if Penang continues with its plan to reclaim three artificial islands to fund the PTMP, not only the people will lose in the end but also the state government.
Dr Hilmi also said that if the LRT and monorail projects were to go through, the state government must ensure that the rails would not be top of historical George Town city. He added that the historical site needs to be preserved at all costs, because if it is not being taken care of properly, they may lose the UNESCO World Heritage status that had been bestowed upon them.