| A TUNNEL REVIEW
I like tunnels. The longest tunnel I ever driven in was the 17km-long Gotthard Tunnel between Switzerland & Italy. Leaving the Alps behind, I ended up in Milan and was puzzled by the eerily quiet atmosphere there. Found out later that every inhabitant was at the stadium watching a football match. Silly me.
Last night, I was quite thrilled to drive into the new 5-km long SMART (Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel) connecting Jalan Tun Razak to the Sungei Besi Highway. Imagine 5 minutes of driving pleasure. No zig-zagging motorcycles, no sand-spilling trucks, no tailgating buses. Add pothole-free surface and it surely is the best driving sanctuary in big bad KL.
The project is unique as it is a 'mega project' that straddled two administrations. Conceived and approved on the tail-end of the Mahathir rule, the tunnel finally opened yesterday.
SMART is supposed to be smart because it also doubles up as a flood tunnel to divert large volumes of flood water from entering flood prone areas via a holding pond, bypass tunnel and storage reservoir.
It is indeed a technological feat if you recall that plans for an entirely underground LRT system for KL was discarded because of the high cost in tunneling under the city's limestone geology. The high ground water table, collapsed cavities and sinkholes underneath posed a tough engineering challenge.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a separate tunnel within the triple-decked tunnel to channel the gushing water during a normal storm. However, during a severe storm the motorway will be closed to traffic. Sufficient time will be allocated to allow the last vehicle to exit the motorway before the automated water-tight gates are opened to allow flood water to pass through. The motorway will be reopened to traffic within 48 hours after the closure. (according to their website).
Very safe lah. Just that it hasn't been tried out in real-life situations before, I think. Anyway, just make sure your car don't break down inside during a heavy storm. At one point it was a bit unnerving seeing a very thick steel hatch similar to the ones in the Poseidon Adventure.
The tunnel is quite snaky but brightly lit. I am sure (in the daytime) most users will disregard the reminder to switch on their lights as prolonging battery, bulb and alternator life is of paramount importance to Malaysians.
There is an emergency lane for motorists in a hurry and plenty of well-spaced emergency escape chutes. The only disturbing thing was that there are no speed limit reminders inside. Kancils and mini vans were flying at daredevil speeds. I envision a fireball when one of these vehicles overturn at a bend. Not to worry though, the tunnel operator can always release huge amount of water at the flick of a switch. Hehehe.
If you are driving southbound, you will be greeted by an array of toll gates upon exit, next to the Sg Besi old airport. Northbound traffic exit along the Indonesian embassy to join the existing underpass. Alternatively you can also exit right smack into Imbi Plaza/Sg Wang. I can imagine the traffic build-up as that is one of the most congested areas in KL.
Surprisingly, Maxis has full signal coverage throughout. There is no 3G though. Most of the RTM radio stations can be picked up but Light & Easy was unavailable. They must have installed special repeaters as no normal radio signal would have been able to penetrate the depths. Well done.
My only complaint is that the dual exit in the north has inadequate signage. By the time you see the signs, you are almost at the split. Incidentally, at the (two-way) Swiss tunnel, a separation distance of 150 metres between each car is enforced. Here in our tunnel, I see many cars cruising along with less than 3 metres apart!
Dear Samy said the toll will be higher than normal as the cost of construction is exceptionally high. His logic doesn't hold any water. Does it mean motorists now have to subsidise KL's flood alleviation initiatives too?
It is interesting to see if the suggested four ringgit toll will attract enough users. Ironically, the existing flyovers on top wasn't that congested until they messed up the whole area near the Kg Pandan roundabout with all the constructions.
The perpetually congested northern part of Jalan Tun Razak between Istana Budaya and PWTC could also use an underground tunnel like this. But then, it may mean paying twice for a short drive through the city. Anyway, I urge you to go try it since the SMART is toll-free for a month. Besides, the current storm season makes it all the more exciting...
© 2007 TV SMITH
Link to this article: http://www.tvsmith.net.my/duasen/160507_tunnel.html