GEORGE TOWN - Users of the new Second Penang Bridge, the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, will enjoy a toll-free ride for a month when it opens next month. Bridge concessionaire Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd (JKSB) managing director Datuk Dr Ismail Mohamed Taib said the company had initially planned to allow motorists free use of the bridge for two months but changed the plan after the collapse of a ramp on June 6 caused a delay.
"The second bridge is 99 per cent complete. The opening date of the 23.6km dual-carriageway link connecting Bayan Lepas on the island to Batu Kawan on the mainland, has yet to be finalised as it is pending ongoing inspections by the Works Ministry and other authorities.
"However, we are confident it will open next month," he said after a media tour yesterday to witness load-testing works on the 475m cable-stayed portion of the bridge. Ismail said the checks would be completed by Nov 8.
On the toll rates, he said this would be decided by the Federal Government. Ismail said the company had saved RM50 million from the RM4.5 billion budgeted for the bridge's construction.
"We used the savings to construct more landscaping, lighting and other amenities for the public," he said, adding the bridge could withstand earthquakes of up to 7.5 on the Richter scale. Ismail said the collapsed ramp had been rebuilt and the road heading towards Jalan Permatang Damar Laut that had been closed for the past four months would be reopened, pending approval from the relevant authorities.
"We have repaired the section. We are now awaiting the green light from the Occupational Safety and Health Department and the Penang Island Municipal Council."
On load-testing work conducted by the bridge's builder, China Harbour Engineering Company Construction (M) Sdn Bhd, Ismail said the exercise took three days to ensure the structure could withstand loads up to 400 tonnes. Twenty lorries laden with boulders weighing 595 tonnes were used to carry out the tests. The lorries simulated scenarios such as bumper-to-bumper traffic snarls from both directions on the bridge. More than 100 sensors were placed at strategic points of the bridge as part of the tests.
The bridge is expected to ease traffic congestion on the first bridge by 20 to 30 per cent.