Second Penang bridge opens to fanfare

PENANG - At 24km, South-east Asia's longest bridge spans roughly the distance between Singapore's Marina Bay and Woodlands.

The second Penang bridge linking Batu Maung on Penang island with Batu Kawan on the mainland was inaugurated by Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday night before some 10,000 people.

Naming it the Sultan Abdul Halim Mua'dzam Shah Bridge, after the current Malaysian King, the Sultan of Kedah, Datuk Seri Najib said no toll would be charged for a month. The bridge is now open to the public.

A fireworks display followed soon after the inauguration.

Before the launch, thousands of early birds thronged a day-long carnival at the site as part of the celebrations, The Star reported.

Security guard Zaidi Zin, 39, who arrived at 10.30am with his two children, said: "This is a historical moment for Penangites."

The RM4.5 billion (S$1.7 billion) structure, 17km of which is over water, is expected to reduce by one-quarter the number of vehicles using the existing 13.5km Penang Bridge. Some 100,000 vehicles cross the first bridge daily, a Bernama report said. Since 1985, the first bridge has taken commuters from the mainland to the island - a major electronics hub, tourist magnet and, increasingly, cultural centre.

Reports say property analysts expect real estate prices to rise in the towns at both ends of the bridge, namely in Batu Maung and Bayan Lepas on the island and Batu Kawan on the mainland.

Construction of the link began in 2008. It was undertaken by China Harbour Engineering Company and UEM Builders. It has four lanes, two motorbike lanes, six intersections and is equipped with 29 CCTV cameras. It is also the first bridge in Malaysia to have rubber absorbers, enabling it to withstand far-field earthquakes measuring more than 7.5 on the Richter scale.

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