PENANG, 13 Aug 2009: The government does not propose to raise the toll rates for the Penang Bridge until an overall review is done, said Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor.
He said although works to widen the bridge had been completed and a third lane opened officially today, the toll rates remain the same as they had been for the last 24 years.
“Presently the toll review is not complete and is still with the Economic Planning Unit (EPU),” he told reporters after opening the third lane in the bridge widening project and also the new building for the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA)’s northern region here today.
It is understood that over the period, the bridge concessionaire, Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd, should have had three toll rates increases, but this was not done by the government as it did not want to burden the people, especially in the present sluggish economy.
He said the government put priority on the safety and comfort of bridge users, and as such, the widening project was implemented to enhance the ability of the bridge to handle the traffic volume.
He said based on statistics, the bridge was handling 155,000 vehicles a day, despite its maximum capacity being 120,000 vehicles a day.
Shaziman said the widening of the bridge began on 27 Dec 2005 with a cost of RM586 million, including a 2m road shoulder for motorcycles.
He said at present, 23% or 30,000 of vehicles were motorcycles.
Besides the widening, the project also involved the construction of an entrance “uni-ramp” via the the North South Expressway to the industrial area of Perai; and works to enhance the toll plazas to overcome congestion at entry points to the bridge.
Meanwhile, he called on the MHA to study the suitability of having a fast lane or one without stops from the Juru toll plaza to the Sungai Dua toll plaza to overcome congestion for users heading north.
Shaziman said there were calls for the government to study the matter.
He said his ministry was also having studies at various locations to use “multi-gantries” to replace toll booths to smoothen traffic flow at the toll plazas.
“Several companies have offered to use the equipment, and if it is found suitable, their use will be implemented under the 10th Malaysia Plan,” he said.
By using the multi-gantries, toll booths would not be needed as highway users could drive right under the gantries to enable their Touch’n’Go or Smart Tag to be read. — Bernama