CEO of PJ eye hospital okays Kidex despite proximity

After initially objecting the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex) which will run just 25 metres from the wards of the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital in Petaling Jaya, its chief executive officer now says the highway is necessary to address traffic congestion in the Klang Valley.

“There is a need for a highway to support growing traffic and congestion," said Prof Datuk Dr M. Chandra Sekaran (pic), whose change of heart followed a briefing by the concessionaire on why the highway was needed.

"Unless someone can come up with a better solution, it would be a good long-term option to consider given that townships will continue to grow and the number of cars on the roads will increase," he said.

The hospital’s board was initially not in favour of the RM2.42 billion expressway that would be built less than seven metres from its perimetre wall.

The idea of having an elevated flyover 25 metres from the hospital's wards also did not appeal to the directors.

They were also concerned about noise and dust pollution from construction works, disruption to electricity supply to the hospital during the construction stage, and obstructions to access into the hospital.

With these reservatons, Dr Chandra was tasked with studying the impact of the 14.9km expressway on the hospital.

He asked consessionaire Kidex Sdn Bhd to give him a briefing, during which he raised the hospital’s concerns.

"I told them that we have a 60-foot mobile operating theatre that needs to move in and out, and also expressed our concern for the safety of patients, who are mostly made up of the elderly with eyesight problems.

"I also asked them if vehicles would fall off the highway into my wards," he told The Malaysian Insider recently.

Dr Chandra was told by Kidex that they would avoid building pillars too close to the hospital, so as not to obstruct access into the hospital and that sound barriers would also be put up to cut out noise pollution.

"I asked them if there were other options, whether they could build a tunnel instead of an elevated highway, but they said building an underground road would cost five to six times more,” Dr Chandra said.

He said that while he understood the feelings of those whose homes would be affected by the highway, it was the result of a problem created in the past.

"Townships grew and grew with no infrastruture to support them and so now, there is this need for a highway to support growing traffic and congestion," he said.

He also urged residents who would be directly affected to be logical and not get personal when evaluating the pros and cons of the expressway.

"Of course those who are going to have their homes acquired must be compensated fairly, but they must look at it objectively because the congestion problem could get worse.

"And if there are legitimate arguments why Kidex should not proceed, the people should ask the federal government why it was approved in the first place and present to them the facts why it should not go ahead," Dr Chandra added.

PJ resident Azmi Raman, who has lived  in the neighbourhood for more than 40 years, concurred with Dr Chandra, saying that with new property developments, there was a need for a long-term plan to solve traffic woes.

He said traffic congestion in PJ, especially around the Sprint and LDP highways, have become worse.

"I believe Kidex will help ease traffic in our neighbourhood roads as motorists who currently use PJ roads to get to their destination can use the highway as an alternative," he added.

Azmi said there is a need for new highways to cope with the current number of cars on the roads.

"If not, it is going to get worse for us," he said.

On groups against Kidex, Azmi said while it was easy to reject the highway, there was a need for real solutions in the light of the growing number of townships and vehicles.

"It is easy to say 'no' and dispute facts but I think it is much more constructive to provide solutions,"  he said.

Azmi said Putrajaya would have conducted studies before coming up with plans for the expressway.

"Admittedly, a highway cutting through our sky is hard to accept but the benefits it can bring to ease traffic on local roads and improve how we get from one place to another is a lot more important.

"In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons," he added.

A Kidex spokesman said the expressway would ease traffic on most roads in PJ by 20% to 30%, despite anticipated increase of vehicles on the road annually.

Kidex will connect seven existing highways via its interchanges, namely  NKVE, Sprint, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Federal Highway, NPE, Kesas and Bukit Jalil Highway.

The spokesman said that while originally, 3,847 lots were frozen under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, only about 330 lots will be acquired under Section 8 of the Act for the construction of the highway.

It would take four years to construct the highway once final approval is obtained, the spokesman added.

When complete in 2018, the 14.9km highway with 11.2km of ramps, will be built over existing road networks. – August 21, 2014.