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A major motivation for considering the highway improvement was the belief, promoted by community and business leaders, that a high-quality highway connecting cities across the corridor could significantly enhance economic growth in the country.

It was generally felt that unless highway improvements to the corridor were evaluated in terms of long-range economic development potential, the benefits of the corridor improvement would be underestimated.

At the state level, there was also interest in using transportation investments to promote economic development objectives as well as expanding its cost-benefit analysis to include not only benefits to the user, but also benefits to the economy.

Whenever a section of highway is improved, individual auto and truck travellers benefit in terms of travel time, transportation cost and accident reduction.

These are the direct user benefits, which have been the traditional means of determining benefits of a highway project.

Direct user benefits for trucking can translate into real dollar savings for businesses that ship items by truck.

However, highway improvements can have a significant impact on the corridor and state economy, over and above direct user benefits.

Specifically, by reducing truck shipping costs, a very real efficiency benefit can accrue to the business shipping out the product, and a potential cost savings can accrue for the business receiving the product.

Cost savings can mean lower product costs, which in turn can make local area businesses more competitive compared to their outside competition, and better able to expand to new markets.

In addition to the business expansion benefit related to trucking cost savings, highway improvements can extend the market area that businesses can serve, as well as the areas from which they can access suppliers.

They can extend the distance range accessible within a day’s drive for truck deliveries or customer visits.

They also can extend the distance range over which local businesses effectively compete with their counterparts located out of state (and vice versa).

The extent of such benefits depends critically on the relative locations of business buyers, suppliers and competitors.

These travel range impacts can provide opportunities for significant expansion and attraction of manufacturing and distribution industries.

Consumer market areas for retail and service businesses are also affected by changes in effective trade areas, but those effects tend to be merely localized shifts in retail activity rather than true gains for the region and state as a whole.

There can be additional impacts on the attraction of new business. Some businesses not previously attracted to the area could also be lured if they were to see the area upgraded to be fully served expressway facilities, providing fast and reliable transportation links to the national highway network, regional population centres and specific buyers or suppliers.

West Coast Expressway (WCE)as one of the seven highway projects to be undertaken under the 10th Malaysia Plan spanning from 2011 to 2015.

It expected to take off soon, and it would definitely add more excitement to the local construction industry.

According to an industry observer, there is a compelling case for the WCE.

Firstly, it is needed to help ease the congestion on the existing North-South Expressway (NSE), which is operated by the recently privatised PLUS Expressways Bhd.

It is estimated that traffic volume on the NSE could reach up to 1.4 million vehicles a day during peak festive seasons.

The analyst explained that such infrastructure project was needed to help boost the economy along the coastal areas in Perak and Selangor.

Construction of the West Coast Expressway, estimated to cost RM7.07 billion.

To enhance the viability of the project, the government will grant a Government Support Loan (GSL) of RM2.24 billion, commencing from 2013 at an interest rate of four percent per annum and an interest subsidy, of up to three per cent from commercial loans for 22 years.

Having the loan deal from the Government would help boost confidence among investors to lend for the development of the project.

As for land acquisition, the cost of up to RM980 million would be borne by the government.

Toll revenue in excess of an agreed traffic volume would be shared on the basis of 70:30 between the government and West Coast till full settlement of the GSL and subsequently 30:70 after the settlement.

The project, which is a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project with a concession period of 60 years, cover a distance of 316 kilometres from Banting in Selangor to Taiping in Perak.

224 km will be tolled while 92 km will be toll-free.

The route of the proposed WCE extends down the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia from Taiping in Perak, to Banting in Selangor.

The WCE will comprise approximately 255km of high quality expressway extending from the junction between Federal Route 60 and Federal Highway Route 1 (near Changkat Jering Interchange on the north south Expressway) in the north, down to a junction with State Road B18 (which runs between Banting and the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang) in the south.

The northern length of almost 277km runs from Taiping Interchange down to the new Klang straits Bypass while the Southern Length of around 28km runs from the Federal Highway Route 2 at Kampung Jawa down to Banting.

Approximately 70 percent of the project length traverses through coastal terrain characterised by alluvial soil with deep seated clay. Extensive amounts of peaty soils were also experienced.

Various types of soft ground treatment applied for the project included embankment surcharging with vertical wick drains, dig-outs of soft material below ground level, use of piled embankment, expanded polystyrene blocks, et cetera.

Source : BERNAMA, hssmalaysia.com and Transportation Quarterly

-SNASH-

(this article written for 1BINA.my)