Viewpoint: Ministry of National Development

The government has pushed forth the plan of building a dual four lane road through Bukit Brown, so as to ease congestion along Lornie Road and the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE). This is to meet the traffic needs of Singapore’s outer ring roads, which is a series of roads (Still-
Eunos Link-Bartley-Braddell-Lornie-Adam-Farrer- Queensway) which from British days serve as an alternate bypass to the city. With commuting times to and fro the city improved, there is greater urban mobility, and will spur work efficiency, consequently bringing about economic growth.

Despite the constant broadening of the roads (Lornie is at present a 7-laner, sometimes narrower), Lornie Road still experiences a bottleneck at peak hours. This coupled with the projection of traffic increasing 20-30% by 2020, due to future development in the northern and central part of Singapore and increasing car owner has made it necessary for the government to decide to build a dual four lane route through the Bukit Brown Cemetery as an alternative road, Minister of State for National Development, Tan Chuan-Jin stated on his Facebook page and in a recent press conference.

In addition, the government has made known to the public that it had considered other alternatives before settling on the current plan. The option of building the alternative road through areas such as Bukit Timah and the Central Catchment Area was quickly rejected, given that these areas make up our nature reserve and are precious tracts of Singapore’s environmental heritage. Also, with MacRitchie (part of the Central Catchment Area) already precariously close to the current Lornie road, further encroachment would cause the forest to deteriorate even further, even in areas not directly in the path of the planned road.

Next, the Ministry of National Development also looked into the option of building a viaduct over Lornie Road. However, building a viaduct entails much foundation works and will require space to build (to avoid diversion of traffic during the day), making such a project on the already cramped Lornie Road impossible. Similarly, a viaduct over Bukit Brown would not only result in the loss of graves (due to the foundation works) but also higher cost. Originally, the idea of a tunnel naturally seemed logical to the government. But it was not after consideration. Unlike MRT tunnels which are very much smaller, a tunnel of 8 lanes will need to be at least 30 metres deep to be viable, not to mention the long duration of construction (given that it takes 3- 5 years to build a smaller MRT tunnel) and the technological challenge of boring a tunnel for 8 lanes.

The government thus concluded that a road through Bukit Brown Cemetery was the best option. They claim, however, that it was not an overnight decision; that they had spent the last few years working out possibilities as they widened the rest of the other road.

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