Penang’s PIL 1 highway approved by environmental regulators

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow at last year’s Pan Island Link 1 town hall session at the Spice Arena, Bayan Lepas.

GEORGE TOWN: A proposed highway tunnelling through the hill ranges of Penang island has been given the green light by federal environmental regulators.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the Department of Environment (DoE) had given conditional approval of the 19.5km Pan Island Link 1 or PIL 1 on April 10, with 56 conditions.

In a press conference at Komtar today, Chow said construction of the highway is expected to begin by the middle of next year.

“The Penang government considers this a major milestone for the project,” he said.

“It is indeed a momentous occasion for the state in its vision to address traffic conditions on the island via initiatives to improve the transport infrastructure.”

The six-lane PIL 1 highway consists of 7.6km of elevated roads and 10.1km of roads tunnelled through the Penang Hill range to connect Gurney Drive in the northeast to the airport in the southeast.

It will allow motorists to arrive at the airport from Gurney Drive in 15 minutes.

The RM7.5 billion highway had been widely panned by environmentalists who said it could destroy the island’s sensitive ecosystem.

The project will be financed through the auction of three reclaimed islands south of Penang island, which are still awaiting approval.

PIL 1 is part of the larger Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), which envisions a series of highways, light rail transit (LRT) lines and other modes of transport built in the next 20 to 30 years at a cost of RM46 billion.

The Penang government has indicated that it would like to start the PIL 1 and the Komtar-Bayan Lepas LRT line before the other projects.

The PTMP will be pursued by SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, a joint-venture between Gamuda Bhd and Penang real estate development firms Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd.