Johor Bahru – the Malaysian city across Singapore- is again embarked in a string of new projects. Among them is the Crooked Bridge. The striking structure was an idea mulled out by then Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad some 15 years ago to replace the almost 100-year old causeway bridge linking Johor Bahru to Singapore. Mahathir is back as Prime Minister and so is the Crooked Bridge.
Johor Bahru just announced what will be its next big infrastructure projects. According to Malaysia official news agency Bernama, the Johor state government has identified several mega projects to be implemented next year, including the construction of an airport in Mersing and part of a bridge linking Johor Bahru and Singapore.
“The bridge could be crooked or straight, but it would be a reality,” said Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian on Monday to Bernama.
The “crooked” bridge refers to a 15-year old project mooted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his previous term in office. In 2003, Dr. Mahathir explained that Malaysia would go ahead and build its own half of the bridge despite Singapore reluctance at that time to build the second half of the project.
The Causeway Bridge
The crooked bridge with six lanes on each side (almost doubling the number of lanes at the current bridge) was due to replace the current Causeway Bridge which has been linking Singapore to its hinterland in Malaya since 1923, during the British colonial time. The bridge supports both railways and motor transportation.
After the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, the causeway became the main point of entry by land between both countries. Over the years and despite improvements of customs and immigration facilities on both sides of the border, the causeway is often turning into a true nightmare for people wanting to cross the border, Beside long-distance trains running from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore as well as regional trains linking Johor Bahru to Singapore, they are busses and of course private vehicles crossing the bridge all day long.
While they are no official data on a total number of people crossing every day the 1-km long bridge, experts estimate that close to 300,000 pedestrians cross daily the bridge, which would then translate into over 100 million of travellers each year. Regarding the total number of vehicles, a few data are available but mention approximately 126,000 vehicles per day from Malaysia into Singapore.
This makes the Causeway link one of the most used border checkpoints in the world, explaining why traffic jam of one hour and more is to be often witnessed at the bridge.
The Crooked Bridge Project
The crooked bridge with six dedicated lanes on each side was originally mulled out by Mahathir in the mid-nineties and officially started in 2003. Its crooked design is not an architectural fantasy but rather a way to get around Singapore’s refusal to go on with a new bridge. The massive Malaysian side bridge would then have connected through a curve to the old Causeway bridge on Singapore territory. However, the project was abandoned in 2006 as Malaysia could not agree with Singapore on the bridge development.
The revived project has not yet been officially presented to Singapore but JB State Minister indicated that the design of the bridge has not been finalized. Construction would “probably start after all quarters have reached an agreement over how to address congestion at the Johor Causeway and the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link.” Authorities hope to start construction in 2019 for an opening by 2022 or best 2023 to celebrate the centenary of the bridge.
Among the future projects mulled out by the JB government is a plan to build a new airport along the East Coast around Mersing. Two sites are being studied but the greenfield would be built to become a new regional hub serving an area comprising Batam Island in Indonesia, Eastern Singapore up to Melaka in Malaysia. The airport would probably be only reserved for small size aircraft such as Embraer or Airbus A220 (formerly Bombardier).