Will road project affect Penang’s famous Padang Brown, asks group

Penang Transport Master Plan. (PTMP)

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang interest group has raised concerns over the possible loss of a historic field here following indications that a bypass road project might cut too close to it.

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) president Lim Gaik Siang said the discovery was made after looking at reports related to the construction of the 4.1km Jalan Pangkor-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway (LCE) bypass.

Judging by the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA), she said, the road would come very close to Padang Brown, a 4.86ha field bordered by the Johore, Dato Keramat, Perak and Anson roads.

The field is one of the few large greens left in George Town, aside from the Esplanade and Polo Ground.

Contractors Consortium Zenith Construction (CZC) had said the bypass would begin as two underground tunnels stacked on each other at Jalan Pangkor, with two lanes going in separate directions.

After Jalan Pangkor, the tunnel will cross over to Perak Road and emerge above ground at Jalan Sungai Pinang.

From there, it will rise into a flyover, where two elevated roads will be placed on top of each other along the median of the road.

The road will end at LCE at the Sungai Pinang interchange, with entry and exit points on either side of the expressway.

Penang Heritage Trust president Lim Gaik Siang.

Lim said the concern by PHT, Penang Forum and others was the alignment of the bypass from Perak Road to Sungai Pinang, where the tunnel would have to emerge above ground to form a flyover.

According to the EIA report, she said, there would be an interchange at Padang Brown, with indications that this might be the point of emergence.

She said the report also indicated that 238 plots of land would be acquired along the 4km bypass.

“This was the only data we could extract from the EIA report concerning the bypass. There is no mention of how the road will come out from the tunnel and where exactly it will land.

“We are also curious to know how the interchange will be built in such a small footprint,” she said in a session on the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) at the Tamil Methodist Church here last night.

Other concerns included the possibility of floods, as well as noise levels, she said. According to the EIA, the road would pass through one of the most flood-prone areas in town.

The sound levels coming from the double-decker elevated road, at over 80db, were also a cause for concern.

“All in all, we want the contractors to answer our concerns as the EIA report sheds very little light on the road project.”

Padang Brown, also known as the Dato Keramat Gardens, was donated by philanthropist David Brown to the people of Penang some 200 years ago.

A memorial was built in his honour at the corner of the field in 1925 to mark the 100th anniversary of his death.

Today, the field is known for the food court at the corner of Anson and Perak roads. It is also a football training field.

The 4km bypass road is part of the RM6.3 billion Penang undersea tunnel and three main roads project.

The three main roads (formerly three paired roads) stretch from Air Itam to the LCE (5.7km), Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang (also known as NCPR) (10.53km), and Jalan Pangkor to LCE (4.1km).

A Penang government official said the three main roads project would take about seven years to complete, with works on the Air Itam to LCE bypass to begin in March next year.

The second project to kick off will be the NCPR, connecting Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bungah and going through the virgin hills of both townships.

Last in priority, the official said, would be the double-decker tunnel and the elevated road from Pangkor Road to LCE.

Each bypass road is expected to take about two to three years to complete.

The project was given the nod by the Department of Environment last year, which set 59 conditions for the contractors to follow including on compliance, environmental management plans, surface runoff mitigation and air quality monitoring.

FMT has contacted the contractors for comment and is awaiting their reply.