Great divide in views

Pantai Bersih in Bagan Ajam, Butterworth, has been earmarked for the proposed undersea tunnel linking the mainland to Gurney Drive on the island. Some residents and fishermen fear that the project may cause them to lose their homes and livelihood.

With all the to-ing and fro-ing about the third link between the island and the mainland, it is not surprising that many Penangites are confused.

And there have been mixed reactions whether they want an undersea tunnel linking Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam on the mainland or if they would prefer a bridge, a suggestion that was made just days ago.

Then, there are others who want neither and feel that an improvement of the current ferry service would be just as good as a third link.

Former Nibong Tebal MP Tan Tee Beng, who used to stay in Gurney Drive for years, said the idea of having either a third bridge or undersea tunnel was not practical.

He presumes more traffic would come in to Pulau Tikus or Gurney Drive via the proposed third link before heading towards the Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi area.

He said it was not sensible to bring in more traffic to the area comprising about 70% residential components.

“More traffic would cause inconvenience to the residents, especially those staying in Pulau Tikus.

“Right now, we are already seeing bottleneck jams at the traffic light, especially the one in Gurney Drive near Sunrise Tower.

“There is also another bottleneck at the traffic light in Tanjung Tokong near the Uda flats.

Restaurant owner Sulaiman Saih welcomes a third bridge to bring progress to Bagan Ajam on the mainland.

“These two areas need to be looked into before we can talk about solving traffic woes.

“Traffic is always bad at these traffic light junctions, especially during rush hour and the holiday season.

“Not to mention, there’s a traffic light every 700-800m on the whole stretch where roads are seemingly distorted,” he said when contacted. Tan, 44, also said if the third link was carried out, then the connecting point in Jalan Pangkor-Gurney Drive junction should be moved elsewhere to avoid further congestion in the area.

He said ideally, the connecting point should be created near George Town.

“By doing so, it will help to divert traffic to the town areas before they eventually drive up to the upper-middle suburbs,” he said.

Nicky Tan, who operates a cafe in Gurney Drive, said he would love to see world-class infrastructure in the form of an undersea tunnel taking shape.

The 68-year-old saw no harm in having an undersea tunnel as it would further improve the image of Penang.

“I believe it will serve as an ideal traffic dispersal system. Those heading to the mainland need not travel to George Town area for ferry services or Penang Bridge.

“They can use the tunnel to get to the mainland,” he said, adding that the authorities should create more parking space along Gurney Drive.

Retiree Mary Chestnut, 64, gave the thumbs up to the undersea tunnel.

“Isn’t it unique for Penangites to have this? I am afraid I would not get to see it but it will definitely benefit the future generation,” said the resident of Lorong Birch.

In Bagan Ajam, the massive project has drawn a mixed reaction from the folks there.

While some are worried that the third bridge may cause them to lose their homes or livelihood, others say it would be good for the future generations.

Eatery operator Hazahar Din, 51, who has been operating in Pantai Bersih for the past 15 years, hoped the project would not take off.

“I disagree that the bridge or the tunnel should pass through here as many people are living and doing business here.

“We like this place very much, and I think many would agree that they do not want to move.

“The beautiful seaside scenery here will also be affected,” he said.

Resident Yap Chai Koon, 60, feared many residents could be relocated if the project was to go ahead.

“A lot of fishermen will be affected. It can be quite costly and troublesome for us. There is also a century-old temple which needs to be relocated,” he said.

However, not everyone in the village is against a third bridge.

Restaurant owner Sulaiman Saih, 69, said a bridge would bring long-term progress to the place.

“I have lived here for about 40 years ago after I moved from Negeri Sembilan. I’ve seen a lot development taken place here.

“Development can be painful initially but in the long term, it can be beneficial,” he said.

Sulaiman added that the welfare of the villagers and fishermen would need to be addressed in terms of compensation and relocation before the project could proceed.

“It would not be easy for the thousands living here so it’s important the government finds a win-win situation for all,” he said.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris felt a third link was unnecessary.

“Many people will be affected and it will cost a lot to build the third bridge.

“Instead, public transportation should be improved to ease access into the northern region of Penang.

“We hope proper studies will be conducted and the people’s feedback be taken into account before any decision to implement the project and build a ‘monument’,” he said. - The Star

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