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Coastal highway will help fulfil vision of creating a better city: LTA

SINGAPORE — Apart from being an architectural feat and notching some firsts, the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) at 9am on Dec 29 will mark a significant step towards the Republic’s plans to transform downtown Marina by improving accessibility to the area and making it more suitable for large-scale development.

SINGAPORE — Apart from being an architectural feat and notching some firsts, the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) at 9am on Dec 29 will mark a significant step towards the Republic’s plans to transform downtown Marina by improving accessibility to the area and making it more suitable for large-scale development.

When the new expressway is in operation — the Republic’s 10th and costliest to date — a stretch of the East Coast Parkway (ECP), west of Benjamin Sheares Bridge, will be converted into a major arterial road named Sheares Avenue. A 1km stretch of the ECP after Central Boulevard, which currently cuts through a plot of land in Marina South, will be removed and roads will be realigned in the area in the months ahead. By the third quarter of next year, the final road network will be complete.

The MCE spans 5km, with almost three-quarters of it underground, including a 420m-long tunnel under the sea bed — the first in Singapore — that runs parallel to the Marina Barrage. The S$4.3 billion expressway, which took four years to build, connects the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and ECP in the east to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) in the west. It is made up of five lanes running in both directions and will link motorists directly to Marina South through new connections at Central Boulevard, Marina Boulevard and Maxwell Road.

At a media briefing yesterday, Mr Chua Chong Kheng, the Land Transport Authority (LTA)’s Deputy Chief Executive of Infrastructure and Development, said the MCE’s capacity — it will carry 10,000 vehicles per hour each way — was built in anticipation of the future development of the Marina Bay area, and will help to enhance it as a “quality live-work-play precinct”.

Said Mr Chua: “Besides improving road connectivity and accessibility into the downtown, more importantly, the MCE will allow us to fulfil the vision of creating a better city.”

The MCE’s alignment will free up for development a piece of land — measuring an estimated 71ha — behind One Raffles Quay and Gardens by the Bay, and stretching south towards the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Property analysts TODAY spoke to said the authorities will continue to build up a “critical mass of financial institutions” in Marina Bay as part of plans to turn it into a financial hub.

Mr Colin Tan, Head of Consultancy and Research at Suntec Real Estate Consultants, said: “We are only beginning to shape the new downtown ... Depending on what they have on the drawing board, there can be hotels or some residential buildings.”

Chesterton Singapore Managing Director Donald Han added that residential or hotel developments will be important in the district. “Part of the plan for the area is to incorporate residential or hotel use to create a 24-hour buzz ... I would not rule out retail space on the lower floors of buildings,” he said.

The MCE’s tunnels are installed with fire protection boards. Should vehicles catch fire, a deluge system — consisting of sprinklers and pipes — can also be quickly activated to contain the situation before the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrives.

On whether the MCE will result in time savings for motorists, Mr Chua pointed out its capacity. He added: “It’s quite a strategic expressway in terms of connecting three major expressways — the KPE, ECP and AYE.”

The LTA is reviewing the speed limits for the MCE and KPE, which will be announced before the former is opened. The MCE is designed for a top speed of 80kmh, while the KPE has a speed limit of 70kmh. On whether the latter’s speed limit will be increased, Mr Chua said it may not be changed for the entire expressway. “There are stretches or bends that we think will affect motorists’ visibility, and therefore we want to make sure they don’t pose a safety hazard to other motorists,” he said.

There will be four Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries on the MCE. However, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew had earlier assured that motorists entering the Central Business District from the MCE “will not be crossing more ERP gantries” than previously. There will also be no changes in ERP charges or operating hours of gantries in the vicinity.

Nevertheless, Mr Chua said the LTA will monitor whether ERP rates on the MCE need to be adjusted in the future, given its high capacity. “It depends on the driving patterns of motorists,” he said.

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