Friday 15 November 2013

Marina Coastal Expressway to open on 29 Dec 2013

Undersea road opens in Dec, ECP to be cut off
This will free up land for new Central Business District
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 14 Nov 2013

A 5KM partly undersea 10-lane road linking the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and East Coast Parkway (ECP) will open on Dec 29, freeing up land that will form a new Central Business District (CBD).

Costing $4.3 billion and taking four years to build, the subterranean Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) is touted as Singapore's 10th expressway, although it is more like an extension of the KPE.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the MCE will provide direct access to the Marina downtown, as well as offer speedy east-west commutes - taking over a role of the ECP.

The southern part of the ECP will be downgraded to an arterial road serving the Marina area.

A 1km section leading from Marina Boulevard to Prince Edward Road will be removed to free up a 70ha land parcel.

LTA deputy chief executive Chua Chong Kheng said: "Without an expressway going through the area, we get a neat and size-able plot for development.

"Today, the ECP cuts the area into two."

Without the ECP dividing it, the new CBD also joins the old business district seamlessly.

The new downtown will boast a densely built-up precinct that is well connected by the MRT.

It is also envisioned to be a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly area, flanked by Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and an international cruise centre.

"It will be a quality live-work- play precinct," Mr Chua said.

A number of road changes will be made to serve this area.

The downgraded section of the ECP - west of Sheares Bridge - will be renamed Sheares Avenue.

By the third quarter next year, Marina Boulevard and Central Boulevard, the two main roads in Marina South, will be straightened and expanded to form high- capacity roads leading to and from Shenton Way.

There will also be direct access to Maxwell Road from the area.

Motorists on the fringe will face changes too. The Fort Road connection to the ECP will be removed because there will be insufficient distance for motorists to filter into the highway when the MCE opens.

Those who use this access to go to the city will have to find other routes, such as via Nicoll Highway, or travel on the East Coast Park Service Road to make a U-turn to join the ECP farther east.

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries will also be re-positioned, to reflect the status of the expanded business district. But the LTA said most motorists will not pass more gantries than they do today.

But this does not apply to those driving from areas such as Bukit Timah and Serangoon, who rely on the Ophir Road connection to get to the west via the ECP. They will have to pass two gantries instead of one today.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said the changes will improve safety. Like other observers, he noted that the ECP stretch in the Marina area "is actually quite dangerous".

A number of serious accidents have occurred in recent months at the section before the Marina Bay Sands, including a fatal one involving a 30-year-old businessman driving a Lotus sports car.

Professor Lee added that removing a section of the ECP goes towards creating "a neater urban landscape, and orderly traffic flow".

Road network changes after new expressway opens: LTA

WE THANK Mr Mark Tan Eng Aun for his letter ("Rethink move to close link to expressway"; Nov 23).

The Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) is intended to be the main expressway connecting traffic between the east and the west.

By channelling traffic currently using the East Coast Parkway (ECP) to MCE, it will allow for a series of road network changes in the city centre, which will free up valuable land space currently occupied by the ECP.

These changes will also allow for the future development of the Marina Bay downtown. Without a major expressway cutting through the heart of the city centre, the overall quality of the new downtown as a live-work-play precinct will be enhanced.

Contrary to what Mr Tan suggested, when MCE opens, motorists can continue to use the Fort Road Interchange to connect directly with MCE, where they can travel to the Central Business District or to the west via the Ayer Rajah Expressway. They can connect directly to the Marina Bay Financial Centre via MCE Exit 3 to Central Boulevard, and the travelling time is expected to be similar to what it is today.

However, motorists using this interchange will not be able to connect directly to the ECP (City) leading towards Sheares Avenue and Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (Tampines Expressway) for safety reasons.

With the short distance between Fort Road and the ECP/KPE/MCE interchanges, it will be unsafe to allow motorists to connect directly with ECP, as they will have to weave through heavy traffic coming from the main ECP and turning into MCE. Hence, the Fort Road Interchange was designed to connect directly to only MCE.

While this will affect a small group of motorists currently travelling to the Rochor Road Interchange via ECP, there are several alternatives available. Motorists can enter the ECP via Tanjong Katong Road or via East Coast Park Service Road from Fort Road. Alternatively, they can use Mountbatten Road.

As with all changes to the road network, motorists will need to make suitable adjustments to their travelling routes.

Depending on their origins and destinations, some motorists may cut down on their journey times when they use the MCE. Others may not benefit so directly. Some motorists may need to make adjustments when the MCE opens on Dec 29.

We will put up temporary signs at the key approaches to remind motorists of the key changes. Traffic wardens will also be deployed in the first week of the opening to help direct motorists.

Motorists can refer to the Land Transport Authority website for more information on the road network changes.

Helen Lim (Ms)
Director, Media Relations
Land Transport Authority
ST Forum, 4 Dec 2013

Rethink move to close link to expressway

I READ with concern the news on the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) and closure of the Fort Road connection to the East Coast Parkway ("Undersea road opens in Dec, ECP to be cut off"; Nov 14).

Motorists who use the Fort Road access to the ECP to go to the city will have to find alternative routes.

The Fort Road access currently serves many motorists who live in the Meyer Road, Tanjong Rhu, Mountbatten and Katong areas. Motorists from other areas also rely heavily on this access, both during peak and non-peak periods.

It was suggested that motorists use the East Coast Park Service Road to make a U-turn to join the ECP farther east.

Would this not increase congestion farther east, especially during peak hours? Congestion would also occur at alternative routes to Marine Parade or Amber Road.

Instead of a 10-minute drive to the Marina Bay Financial Centre, residents in the Fort Road area would probably see travelling time increase by 10 to 15 minutes or even longer, depending on the time of travel and road conditions.

It was reported that the Fort Road access to the ECP has to be removed because there will be insufficient distance for motorists to filter into the highway when the MCE opens. Have all the options been exhausted?

Can the Land Transport Authority (LTA) share with the public more details on the proposed move, the alternatives and to what extent it will impact travelling time and costs for motorists?

I hope the LTA will reconsider the decision to cut off the Fort Road access and find a solution to link it to the MCE instead.

Mark Tan Eng Aun
ST Forum, 23 Nov 2013

Engineer tunnels through job roadblocks
LTA veteran faced mammoth task in building Marina Coastal Expressway
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2013

BUILDING a road under the sea is a Herculean effort by any measure.

But when said road is near a dam that discharges 2,000 cubic metres of water per second - or about 50 swimming pools' worth per minute - the task becomes almost indomitable.

This is because the sheer volume of water being discharged causes the seabed to be churned and washed away.

Yet, that was exactly what Land Transport Authority director Chuah Han Leong and his team had to deal with when constructing the $4.3 billion Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) which opens on Dec 29.

The 5km 10-lane highway joins the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and the Ayer Rajah Expressway. A mid-section of close to half a kilometre goes under the seabed of Marina Bay, just 130m south of Marina Barrage.

"We went about 25m below the waves, and just 130m from the barrage," the 58-year-old geotechnical engineer said.

Dealing with the water being discharged from the barrage was "a major challenge", he added.

"It's a hell of a lot of water coming through," the veteran said. "So we had to put in what's called gabions - rocks in cages - next to the temporary works, so that the seabed would not get eroded around the works."

The section had to be done in stages so that water flow was not impeded. "We had to leave at least 150m open to let the water flow out," Mr Chuah noted.

Another challenge was dealing with the seabed which consists of a thick layer of "peanut butter- like" marine clay. Piles had to go 85m down to anchor on hard rock.

But Mr Chuah is no stranger to such obstacles in his work. He has been involved in tunnelled road projects going below water bodies since the 1980s, starting with the Central Expressway (CTE) "when I was a young resident engineer in my early 30s".

"For the CTE, we went under the Singapore River - it was a 70m stretch. For the KPE, we went under the Geylang River, for 120m. And now for the MCE, we went under the sea, over a 420m stretch," he said.

All three underground roads went under or above MRT lines too. The CTE went above the East-West Line and the KPE went over the Circle Line, while the MCE is built above the North-South Line extension.

This would not have been possible if engineering provisions had not been made when the rail lines were laid. Mr Chuah said the MCE construction also includes provisions for future extensions.

It will have a westward branch heading towards the future Southern Waterfront (which will be built after the port moves to Tuas in 2027), and an eastward branch heading for Marina East.

Mr Chuah said all three projects were "memorable".

He said: "The CTE was my first, and it was Singapore's first tunnelled road. I was involved in the stretch near the Istana. We excavated under Stamford Canal.

"The KPE was interesting because I was involved from day one... The MCE was the same. I led a team of 120 people across many disciplines - that was satisfying." He added that it is also "satisfying to improve mobility".

"When people tell me that the KPE gives them a smooth journey and it helps them shorten their journeys, it's satisfying," he said.

At the same time, the engineer who started his career with the Public Works Department more than 30 years ago realises that infrastructure has its limitations.

While it relieves congestion, "you can never build enough roads". "The more roads you have, the more demand there will be," he said.

Hence, Singapore still needs to manage demand via measures such as the Electronic Road Pricing and the vehicle quota system.

"If you don't do these other things... eventually, they will all be choked up."

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