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Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the alignment of the highway, which is a subject of scrutiny by various quarters, would be further improved to minimise any impact. (NSTP/DANIAL SAAD)

GEORGE TOWN: The proposed alignment for the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway project is still in the preliminary design stage, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said.

He said the alignment of the highway, which is a subject of scrutiny by various quarters, would be further improved to minimise any impact.

Stressing that there is a need for the PIL 1 to address the worsening traffic congestion, he said those who opposed the project should provide a viable alternative.

“For the last three years, we have been going around gathering feedback of the project. We have not run away from any criticisms.

“We are happy that even Najib (former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) has taken a personal interest in the PIL 1 project.

“We will ensure we address whatever issues before we proceed with the project,” he told newsmen at the sideline of the state legislative assembly sitting today.

Najib had reportedly said the the PIL 1 highway was too costly given that it would only save 15 minutes of travel time.

The 19.5km PIL 1 highway will include a 10-km tunnel that cuts through the hills in Bukit Bendera, Paya Terubong and Sungai Ara to alleviate traffic congestion on the island. It will also cut across the Youth Park, which is unavoidable.

The RM7.5 billion highway will then allow traffic to go directly from Gurney Drive to Gottlieb Road, Youth Park, Sungai Keluang and the Second Penang Bridge, cutting travelling time by more than half.

The PIL 1 is a key component under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) which is carried out by SRS Consortium.

Chow also said that the highway project would affect a total 226 buildings, out of which 62 are residential, 30 commercial, four religious places, 48 minor structures and 82 squatters, under the current alignment.

Meanwhile, SRS Consortium project director Szeto Wai Loong explained that blasting works to create the tunnels would be done via controlled chemical blasting with minimal vibrations.

“This is a new kind of explosives so as we blast, we will cast the tunnel every 100m so there is very low vibrations.

“It is similar to the Penchala Link and the Bukit Larut projects, which had tunnels bored by using explosives,” he added, noting that it would not be like how blasting at quarries is done.

The Department of Environment (DOE) has extended the public feedback period for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Schedule 2) Report for PIL 1 to Sept 7.

The public can still submit their written feedback on the PIL 1 Highway to DOE before Sept 7 although the online public display of the EIA documents ends on Aug 10.

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