GEORGE TOWN: Penang will go ahead with the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) despite criticisms that the project was unnecessary and a waste of public funds.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said: “It is not a waste. We need this highway.
“If we are to give in to the comments of certain groups to not build the highway, can you imagine the terrible traffic conditions of Penang in 2025, 2030 and 2035?”
He also said not having PIL 1 would harm the economic growth of the state.
“Without this project, it will lead to economic losses as the worsening traffic congestion will lead to lower productivity.
“With traffic jams, tourists and investors will not come,” he told a press conference at Penang Hill yesterday.
Chow said consultants had undertaken various studies on the project that was expected to start in July next year.
The project, he added, was also approved by the Department of Environment (DOE), but with 56 conditions.
“The DOE had deliberated these during its review and gave approval for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is valid for two years from the date of approval and it is with 56 conditions,” he said.
Chow was responding to comments by Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris, who claimed that the 19.5km highway was a waste of state funds.
Idris had said the highway would hit its capacity as early as 2030 and would not resolve the issue of traffic congestion in Penang in the long term.
On the project’s potential environmental impact, Chow said mitigation measures would be taken.
He also revealed a summary of the 56 conditions, which include an environmental management plan, the submission of various monthly and quarterly reports to the DOE and the appointment of environment officers, among others.
On Monday, Chow announced that the DOE had approved the EIA report for the proposed PIL 1 via a letter dated April 10.
The Star had on April 8 broke the news in an exclusive report that construction on the RM9bil light rail transit (LRT) line and the RM9.6bil PIL 1 were scheduled to start in June next year.
Necessary approvals, said Chow, would be sought from various agencies to start the construction of PIL 1 highway, which is to be completed by June 2026.
The 19.5km-long PIL 1 highway alignment will comprise 7.6km of viaduct sections, four tunnel sections totalling 10.1km and embankment sections totalling 1.8km.
The PIL 1 alignment will connect Gurney Drive and Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu expressway near the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone Phase IV.
However, MCA vice-president Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said the Penang government should put the PIL 1 project on hold as the average proposed cost could reach RM384.6mil per km.
He said the estimated price for ECRL was only RM68.7mil per km, which is just one-fifth of the cost of PIL 1.
“Ignoring the practicality, and environmental impacts, the price of the project itself is a colossal issue.
“Hence, the Penang state government must be accountable to the people or its motto of Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) will be meaningless,” he said in a statement yesterday.
It was earlier reported that the estimated cost of PIL 1 would be RM7.5bil.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had said the actual cost of the project would only be known during the calling of the tender process and the submission of bids.