Facilitating the movement of goods and people galvanises a nation’s commerce. This is why I hold dearly to the idea that an efficient transportation system is one of the most important components of economic growth. The government has set continuous plans to improve public transportation and infrastructures – LRT, MRT, improvements in railway connectivity, highways around Peninsula and East Malaysia, etc, to ensure social mobility for all Malaysians.
Thus, I believe the launching of the Second Penang Bridge – named Jambatan Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah – will act as a catalyst for more economic activities not only in Penang, but also in the northern region.
In many ways the Second Bridge is an important milestone for Malaysia. The idea was first mooted in 1995 by Tun Mahathir. This was followed through by Tun Abdullah who decided that it should be located in the southern part of the island so as to stimulate economic growth in the northern states well as in the Northern Economic Corridor.
Apart from its most obvious role of providing connectivity and accessibility to the Penang International Airport, I foresee that the bridge will eventually become a national icon much like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.
Built at a cost of RM4.5 billion, Northerners can now look forward to shifting their economic focus from agriculture to industry. I have been made to understand – and fully expect – that 65,000 job opportunities will be created by the development projects surrounding the Second Bridge. The government’s central thrust has always been to deliver on our promise: that all Malaysians shall stand to benefit from any federal development project.
The Second Bridge – connecting Batu Maung on the island and Batu Kawan on the mainland – will serve as the alternate crossing to Penang. It is estimated that number of vehicles using the first Penang Bridge (built in 1985) will increase by 68% (i.e. 67,000 vehicles) by 2020. Thus, the second crossing will greatly ease congestion of incoming and outgoing traffic to the island. I am convinced that this will, in turn, tremendously boost the income potential and quality of life of the people in the surrounding areas.
The Second Bridge is in itself a modern day engineering marvel. Spanning 24 kilometres (16.9 kilometres over water) it is the longest bridge in South East Asia. The bridge is the longest bridge in the world that incorporates High Damping Rubber Bearing (HDRB) as its seismic isolation system.
Another innovative feature is the emphasis on environmental friendliness in the design and construction of the toll plaza serving the bridge. It carries a Gold rating of 80% on the Green Building Index (GBI). This measure is aimed at promoting energy efficiency, internal environmental quality and sustainability in operating the Toll Plaza.
The launch of Penang Second Bridge is another testament of the Federal government’s unwavering will to deliver on our promise. Above all else, we are committed to improving the livelihood of the people. It is my sincerest hope that people in the northern region will capitalise on the development opportunities generated by Penang Second Bridge project. The bridge was built with you in mind. The bridge is there to serve you; make the most out of it.