This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 20, 2011
Singapore's longest road viaduct will be built as part of the 21km North-South Expressway (NSE) which planners expect will slash travelling time from Woodlands to the city by 30 per cent during peak hours.
Work on the expressway - Singapore’s 11th and technically the most challenging - is due to start in two years. It should end by 2020 when the already heavily used Central Expressway (CTE), to which it runs parallel, and other major roads are expected to face a capacity crunch.
The bill for the new expressway: $7 billion to $8 billion.
Details of the 15.9km northern section of the NSE, from Admiralty Road West to Toa Payoh Rise, were announced yesterday (Jan 19, 2011).
It will comprise an 8.8km viaduct and road tunnels linking estates like Woodlands, Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh to the city. It will have largely three lanes each way.
The Government will acquire 38 lots of land entirely and 33 lots partially. They include about 25 terrace houses at Marymount Terrace, and the part of Marymount Convent that houses the living quarters of nuns and a nursing home.
Also affected are industrial land owned by JTC Corporation as well as parts of fences, boundary walls and grass verges of condominiums such as Nuovo, Castle Green, Seletaris and Bullion Park.
The acquired land, gazetted yesterday, is about 5.6ha or the size of eight football fields. This area is larger than the 4.8ha of land acquired for the 12km Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway, which is three-quarters underground, and 3.4ha for the underground MRT Circle Line.
The route of the 5.1km southern section is still being firmed up and will be announced later, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said. It is expected to connect to the East Coast Parkway.
Plans for the North-South Expressway were first unveiled as part of a land transport masterplan two years ago that went beyond building more roads in land-scarce Singapore to improving public transport and moving from taxing vehicle ownership to charging for road usage.
The LTA said it has planned extensively and carefully for the new highway to minimise the impact on the public.
It is banking on the NSE to relieve congestion on the CTE, the only expressway for the north-south corridor that sees heavy traffic from the northern and central parts at peak hours.
While the CTE is on target to be widened to four lanes by the end of this year, the LTA said the roads cannot cope with future growth in traffic as more homes are built in Yishun, Sembawang and Woodlands, and Marina Bay in the city centre becomes developed.
The NSE, which will connect to Seletar Expressway, could also improve traffic flow on major roads like Thomson and Marymount. The LTA estimates it could ease traffic by 10 per cent to 15 per cent on the CTE and major roads.
That is good news for project manager Patrick Liow, 54, who lives in Yishun and drives his daughter to Nanyang Technological University in Jalan Bahar at 8am, before going to his office in Ayer Rajah.
“It’s always jammed. Ang Mo Kio, jam. Marymount Road, jam. Lornie Road, jam. Farrer Road, jam,” he said.
“This expressway is long overdue.”
Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research at property consultancy SLP International, estimates the increased accessibility to the city and elsewhere to give a slight lift of 2 per cent to 3 per cent to the values of properties northwards from Toa Payoh.
But homes 10m to 20m from the viaduct, from the first to 11th levels, could see a 5 per cent drop in value. “It’s the noise, dust and unsightly view of vehicles zooming past,” he said.
Some home owners at Marymount Terrace who received acquisition notices yesterday were upset, with at least one bursting into tears at the thought of parting with her long-time neighbours. They have been given two years to move.
Others mulled over their options. Said businessman Wilson Loy, 41, who has lived there for 15 years: “We don’t know where we are going to go but we just hope the compensation is reasonable.”
Members of the public can call the Singapore Land Authority on 6323-9829 on land acquisition issues and the LTA on 1800-CALL-LTA (1800-2255-582) for matters related to the expressway.
Additional reporting by Kimberly Spykerman, Chong Ziliang, Lester Kok and Royston Sim