The so-called “third option” to solve chronic traffic congestion in the Kuta-airport-Jimbaran area — an elevated highway to run over mangroves and coastal wetlands next to the Ngurah Rai Bypass between Kuta and Nusa Dua — now looks set to be the final solution frustrated drivers and delayed airport travellers have been waiting for.
It emerged this week that five state companies including airport operator Angkasa Pura I have firm plans to build the road, at a project cost of Rp2 trillion (US$222 million) and have it completed by 2013.
The new road would be designed to ease chronic and virtually round-the-clock traffic congestion at Simpang Siur, the Ngurah Rai Bypass between Kuta and the airport and on the bypass south of the airport turnoff.
Angkasa Pura I president commissioner Suratto Siswodiharjo told the media: “The project has been agreed to be in the form of an elevated road over the sea and mangrove forests. The tender will be conducted in early January 2011 and a permit from the Forestry Ministry has already been obtained.”
The four other corporations in the consortium are road-builder Jasa Marga, contractor Wijaya Karya, state port manager Pelabuhan Indonesia III and the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC).
BTDC president director Made Mandra said the 14.5-kilometre road would be built four metres above mean sea level and would link Ngurah Rai International Airport, the port of Benoa and Nusa Dua with Denpasar. Mandra said the Rp2 trillion funding required was “being prepared.”
Mandra said the new road’s impact on the 1,375-hectare mangrove forest in the area would be minimal. “It will not damage the mangrove forests in Denpasar or those in Badung district. Only about 100 square metres of these forests would need to be cleared,” he said.
Mangroves are vital marine species breeding grounds and also help protect coastlines from rising sea levels, erosion and the threat of tsunamis.
Siswodiharjo said building the new road was a necessity in order to improve traffic infrastructure in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to be held in Bali in 2013, the year the airport expansion now getting under way was scheduled for completion.
Badung Regent Anak Agung Gede Agung, one of the leaders who originally flagged the elevated highway option, said the new road should put an end to heavy traffic congestion between Nusa Dua and Denpasar, which were currently linked only by the Ngurah Rai Bypass.
Proposals for the elevated road surfaced two months ago following a year-long argument over conflicting plans to build an overpass or an underpass at the heavily congested Dewa Ruci roundabout at Simpang Siur, where the bypass and the Sunset Road arterial link to Denpasar via Iman Bonjol meet.
An overpass at Simpang Siur would have required removal or relocation of the Dewa Ruci statue, a solution opposed by many Balinese on cultural and religious grounds.
Dewa Ruci is not a sacred figure in the Hindu religion, but is a character in the Mahabharata. Governor I Made Mangku Pastika had suggested the statue could be moved to one side of a new overpass or to a new landscaped park area just to the north of the roundabout.
Building an overpass to avoid having to shift the statue would have involved costly acquisition of privately owned commercial land and created traffic engineering problems.
An underpass was then proposed, but the water table in the area is only 1.5 metres below the surface. Proponents said it was technically feasible to build a tunnel in such conditions but it would add substantially to construction costs and be expensive in terms of ongoing maintenance once in operation.