JOHOR BARU: Travelling between southwest and southeast Johor will be faster and more comfortable with the opening of the 75km Senai-Desaru Expressway today.
The highway, costing RM1.4 billion, is one of the biggest infrastructure projects under the Ninth Malaysian Plan in Johor.
It provides an important transportation link to further boost the logistics and tourism sectors in the southern region.
With the highway, travel time is about an hour between Desaru, in the south-east, and the Second Link or Tanjung Pelepas, in the south-west.
This is a stark contrast compared with the 21/2 hours of travelling along the trunk road.
In conjunction with the opening of the new highway, codenamed SDE, motorists will enjoy a toll-free journey for one month from today.
Toll collection will begin from July 10.
Malaysian Highway Authority director-general Datuk Ismail Md Salleh said the highway was partially opened to traffic from Senai to Pasir Gudang last year.
He added the highway was ready with the completion of package three of the project, which linked Cahaya Baru, in Pasir Gudang, and Penawar in Desaru, covering 27km.
The project includes a 4km bridge spanning Sungai Johor.
"The highway will change the skyline of southern Johor.
"It offers another option for commuters who want a hassle-free and fast journey."
It is expected to strengthen the status of Johor Baru as the southern transportation hub for industry players as it provides logistical support for the industrial zones in Pasir Gudang, Senai and Tanjung Pelepas.
For tourism, it is set to revive the status of Desaru, which was once a popular place for beach activities. Its popularity declined because of the long travel time.
Malaysia Tourist Guide Association president Jimmy Leong said Desaru's tourism was severely affected by poor road conditions in the past.
He anticipated a steady growth of tourism activities in Desaru and adjacent areas with the completion of the highway, as well as the launching of the ferry service between the Tanjung Belungkor terminal in Kota Tinggi and Changi terminal in Singapore in April.
"The project will spur the growth in eco and agro-tourism sector."
Johor Lorry Operators Association vice-chairman Leow Hock Tiap said the highway would benefit transport operators travelling from the north to the south as they would have an alternative route to get to Pasir Gudang without having to bypass the city areas.
"This will alleviate congestion along the existing Pasir Gudang Highway.
"However, lorry operators in the south are not affected by the highway as they use an altogether different route to send their consignment."