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Penang rolls out RM8b infra jobs

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 15): The Penang government has proposed to undertake four road infrastructure projects worth up to a combined RM8 billion to reduce traffic congestion in the state. The move is deemed crucial to manage transportation needs of an expanding population there amid higher tourist arrivals, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said here on Monday at a media briefing.

According to the pre-qualification exercise document given out during the briefing, the Penang government plans to build a 6.5km undersea tunnel connecting Butterworth on the mainland and Gurney Drive, from which a 4.2km bypass would be constructed linking it to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.

The plan will also see the construction of a 4.6km bypass from Bandar Baru Air Itam to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, apart from a 12km paired road to the existing coastal road linking Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang.

It is also the state government's intention to establish a light-rail-transit network along the proposed alignment, according to the document.

Lim said these projects represent a long-term plan for Penang as its existing road network would be insufficient to accommodate traffic volume in the near future. He said the proposed infrastructures would reduce the congestion along the tourism belt along Batu Ferringhi, besides residential areas such as Paya Terubong and the heritage sites within George Town.

Penang has a population of 1.52 million, still growing — the state is expected to house two million by 2020, according to Lim.

"This is our vision and we hope the Federal Government will participate," Lim said at the media briefing.

He did not specify the cost for each project, but only indicating that the total cost would range between RM5 billion and RM8 billion.

Lim said these public-private partnership projects would be undertaken via open tenders involving domestic and foreign construction companies. He said the state government would finance these projects via land swaps or toll collections.

Lim said the pre-qualification exercise for bidders would begin tomorrow and letter of awards would be issued to winners by September 2012 based on the best prices offered. He said the state may award all four projects to a single construction company or one project each to four winning bidders.

Construction work, which will take three years to complete, is anticipated to start in 2015 following feasibility studies.

The chief minister also indicated that while he is not in favour of elevated transportation structures which could adversely affect heritage buildings in the state; he was still "willing to consider other views" on such proposals.

The four proposed infrastructure projects coincide with the state government's plans to build more affordable homes in the state. Lim was quoted as saying over the weekend that the state authorities are setting aside RM500 milllion, from the sale of a piece of 41.5ha government-owned prime land along the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway, to finance the construction of affordable houses in the state.

Lim had indicated that 81ha in Batu Kawan had been identified for the affordable home initiative which includes about 15,000 residential units worth between RM72,000 and RM220,000 each.

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