BINTULU: Folks here, particularly those living in Jepak on the other side of Kuala Kemena, are looking forward to the expected economic boost and numerous other benefits brought about by the construction of the Bintulu-Jepak bridge.
The RM467 million cable-stayed bridge is set to bring about massive transformation to Jepak and its surrounding areas, and many are eagerly awaiting its completion which is slated for April 2023.
Water plant operator Azrul Hussaini, 40, said he views the bridge as the catalyst for increasing the income of folks in Jepak.
“I have to thank the state government for this gift to the people. God-willing, it will increase the income of Jepak folk.
“Currently, the sale of sea products in Jepak is very encouraging as seafood lovers from outside the town flock here. The bridge will shorten the travelling time to Jepak, meaning it would be easier for people to have access to fresh sea produce daily,” the Kampung Jepak native told The Borneo Post.
Azrul also welcomed the development plans the Sarawak government has pencilled in for Jepak, and expressed hope that it would include the setting-up of a religious secondary school.
“I hope the government will consider setting up one here, since most parents now send their children to religious secondary schools in Miri, Sibu and Kuching.”
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had previously announced that the development plans for Jepak and its surrounding areas, with the relocation of the Bintulu administration office among the many projects in the pipeline.
Jepak resident Mohamad Bahrem Satem said he hoped the completion of the bridge, along with the accompanying development projects, will elevate Bintulu into a modern city in the future.
“The Bintulu-Jepak bridge, for sure, is the most awaited project by the people here. It will become a new landmark connecting the central town to Jepak, and for that we have to thank the government as well as Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) for their efforts,” the 48-year-old administrative assistant said.
For 26-year-old Nur Khairunisa Mohammad, the thought of being able to travel to the town in a shorter time is a definite plus for her and the younger generation in Jepak.
“I read the bridge will reduce the travelling distance to town, meaning it would save us time when we got to town for work or to shop.”
The assistant manager of an internet centre here said currently, Jepak folks have two options when it comes to going to the town centre – over water (bot tambang or ferry) or by road.
“Once the bridge is completed, (ride-hailing companies) Grab, MyCar, Maxim and others can start operating here, meaning more options for commuters and also an opportunity for those seeking to supplement their income,” she added.
Self-employed Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, 50, said connecting Bintulu town and Jepak via the bridge over the Kemena river will shorten the distance to Jepak, Bintulu Airport and Mukah.
“With this bridge, it will boost the economic activities along the routes especially at the Jepak side,” he said.
He also opined that some areas in Jepak could be allocated for the relocation of four villages, namely Kampung Sinong, Kampung Masjid, Kampung Datuk and Kampung Sebiew.
“By relocating the four villages in one area, it can reunite all the local Vaie people who have migrated to other places. Jepak area will become the biggest Vaie, Malay and Melanau village in Bintulu,” he said.
Meanwhile, former BDA general manager Datu Mohidin Ishak, 68, said the new bridge should not just be viewed as a means to shorten travelling time, but as an iconic symbol of Bintulu’s progress.
“It is an obvious part of the master plan for Bintulu to become a ‘Friendly City’. It will complement the existing attractions in the area such as Bintulu Waterfront Promenade, the boulevard along Old Bintulu Airport, Tanjung Datu beach with its Tumbina that can accommodate a sea-world project, as well as the Bukit Jepak domain with the museum,” said Mohidin, a civil engineer by profession.