Pasir Panjang road-widening project to proceed

Residents who petitioned against project have been told that 38 of the 93 mature trees will be transplanted
HOLLY MATTHEWS Today Online 18 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — The project to widen Pasir Panjang Road, first announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in April 2013, is to proceed despite a last-ditch petition mounted by residents in the area who say the felling of nearly 100 mature trees required for the project will strip the area of its tranquil charm.

But residents have been told that 38 of the 93 trees, some of which are more than 50 years old, according to Pasir Panjang residents, will be transplanted.

In addition, about 300 new trees — triple the number of trees that will be affected by the works — will be planted along the stretch of road, once it has been widened into a two-lane dual carriageway.

In the latest update on the petition last Thursday, given after a meeting the night before with the Member of Parliament for the area and Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang, as well as LTA officials, Mr Kelvin Lee, who started the petition on on June 27, expressed his understanding of the justifications given by the authorities. The petition had gathered 1,191 signatures as of last night.

“All of us were admittedly very disappointed, but we were realistic about our chances given this late stage,” he wrote.

But Mr Lee described the assurances by the LTA as a “silver lining”.

He said: “There were many reasons given, but the long and short of it is that there is a master plan in place for Pasir Panjang Road, which requires more homes to be built and, therefore, larger roads are deemed necessary.”

The residents on Pasir Panjang Road, which is dotted with landed properties and 19 condominiums, had sought to argue that traffic was heavy only during two hours a day, from 8am to 9am and from 5pm to 6pm.

They also singled out the bus stops along the single-lane dual carriageway for causing congestion. Because some of these stops are located directly opposite each other, during peak hours, vehicles would end up converging behind buses stopping to pick up commuters. But the residents argued that this problem could be solved by either shifting the bus stops or creating bus bays so traffic can continue to flow when buses have to stop.

Other concerns brought up by residents included their worry that traffic flow would increase with the wider road, making it more difficult for residents, in particular young children, to cross at the junction.

One resident in the area, homemaker See Chian Ting, said: “It takes years to grow these trees, so it’s a waste that just because they want to expand the road, they are going to sacrifice the trees.”

In response to TODAY’s queries, the LTA said stopping buses were not the only cause of the constant delays, especially during peak hours. Vehicles making right turns into residential developments and other roadside activities add to the traffic snarl.

A spokesperson said Pasir Panjang Road and West Coast Road serve as the primary access into several residential estates, offices, hotels, food and beverage establishments, tourist attractions, religious facilities, research and educational institutes in the vicinity.

The stretch of road undergoing works also serves seven bus services and 10 pairs of bus stops, she added.

“With further residential and commercial developments expected along this corridor, traffic volume is slated to grow by at least 50 per cent in the next two years, leading to greater congestion and longer journeys,” the spokesperson said. “It was therefore necessary for the LTA to embark on the widening project to increase the overall road capacity to meet the anticipated increase in traffic volume, provide connectivity to new developments and, most importantly, enable smoother movement for buses travelling along this road corridor.”

The spokesperson also said the LTA had set up an office opposite Heng Mui Keng Terrace to provide residents with up-to-date information on the project, and provide a channel for them to give feedback.

Regardless, the residents are sad to see the mature trees go.

Mr Lee said the sprawling foliage creates a nice environment in the vicinity. “The trees have grown to such a mature age that they provide such a beautiful canopy, which you can hardly find in any other estate.”