Nov 14, 2013

    Fast road to new downtown buzz

    IT'S an architectural marvel, with a section where you can drive underneath the seabed and still retain your phone network connection.

    Built at a cost of $4.3 billion, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) is also Singapore's most expensive expressway to date.

    But MCE could well justify that price tag. It will do more than offer motorists a new, smoother connection between the eastern and western parts of the island. It will also link them directly to the heart of the downtown area at Marina South, through new connections with Central Boulevard, Marina Boulevard and Maxwell Road.

    On top of that, it will help to free up valuable land for future developments in Marina South, estimated to be 70ha.

    The 5km MCE connects the Ayer-Rajah Expressway (AYE) in the west to the East Coast Parkway (ECP) and the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) in the east. As a result, part of the ECP in the city centre will be freed up for development.

    This 1km stretch of the existing expressway is located after Central Boulevard (see graphic).

    The MCE, Singapore's 10th expressway, will be five lanes in both directions and will open at 9am on Dec 29, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

    Built at a cost of around $860 million per kilometre, MCE has 3.6km built as a tunnel, including a 420m section below the seabed.

    Transport expert Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore said that with the removal of the ECP section, a "big chunk" of Marina Bay can be retained for development, as the expressway no longer cuts through the area.

    Noting that MCE is built at the fringe of the new downtown area, Dr Lee said: "When you give higher priority to land (use), in terms of the infrastructure and urban development, then you must find a way to relocate the ECP."

    MCE may also be safer than the section of the ECP near Marina Bay Sands, which is curvy and can be dangerous for motorists, said Dr Lee.

    MCE, on the other hand, has a relatively straighter alignment and is better for traffic flow, he noted.

    It will also bypass some busy expressway entrances and exits, such as at Rochor Road, which may help to cut down travelling time, Dr Lee said.

    While MCE opens next month, there will still be roadworks in the Marina South area which will be completed by the third quarter of next year.

    The works include the removal of the existing ECP structure between Central Boulevard and Prince Edward Road, as well as the straightening of Central Boulevard and Marina Boulevard.

    While these roadworks are going on, motorists using Central Boulevard and Marina Boulevard will need to use a series of interim roads to enter and exit the Marina Bay area.

    As part of the development plan, the stretch of the ECP west of Benjamin Sheares Bridge will be converted to a major arterial road, and renamed as Sheares Avenue.

    The speed limit on MCE, which is designed with a top speed of 80kmh, will be announced later.