Suramadu bridge to open in April

On the way:
Traditional boats float near the incomplete Suramadu bridge, which will connect Java and Madura. The construction of the 5-kilometer bridge is scheduled for completion in March. (JP/ID Nugroho)

Agnes S. Jayakarna

A bridge being built to connect Surabaya and Madura Island will be completed by March and ready for use in April, an executive says.

"The construction of the *Indonesian Golden Gate' bridge's main span is ongoing and will be completed in February to connect Madura's approach ramp with Surabaya's one. All work will be completed in March and the long bridge will be ready for use in April," Atiyanto Busono, head of the task force overseeing construction of the bridge's main span, said on Tuesday.

The project to build the 5-kilometer-long bridge, which will be the longest in the country, was initiated in 2003 by state-owned construction companies working in cooperation with China under a budget of Rp5.4 trillion (about US$490 million).

Atiyanto said progress had been hampered over the past months by heavy rainfall.

"We have to stop when it is raining and in constructing the bridge's main span we have to closely coordinate with the Meteorology and Geophysics station at Tanjungperak port," he said.

He said his team was still awaiting the go-ahead to clear land in housing areas near both ends of the bridge, in Surabaya and Bangkalan.

The Surabaya administration brought the land-clearance issue to the Surabaya District Court after land-owners refused to sell the plots.

Constriction work was suspended last year due to financial concerns, but resumed again last December after the Export and Import Bank of China agreed to provide an additional US$68.93 million in loans.

The operators of 16 ferries plowing the Ujung Kamal-Surabaya route, the only available service at the moment, said they had not decided whether they would move their operations to other ports once the bridge was completed.

The River and Lake Transport Association has called on the provincial administration to advise the ferry operators whether they should seek business elsewhere.

"We are still seeking a fair solution or an alternative so that the ferries can continue operating to avoid financial losses for their owners," head of the Gapasdap's crossing transportation division Sonnie Mathovani said.

Head of the provincial transportation office Hary Soegiry said only seven cargo ferries would continue to to serve and that the other nine would moved to Ketapang port in Banyuwangi to transport tourists to and from Surabaya, Sumenep and Bawean.

The chairman of the edict commission of the Indonesian Ulema Association, Ma'ruf Amin, called on all ulema in the area to help uphold thevalues" of Madura residents amid the threat of modernization that would come with the opening of the bridge.

"The new bridge will carry many positive and negative things onto the island," he said in Pamekasan.

He said the island would see major changes as it became more exposed to foreign cultures. He said all Madurese, especially clerics, should uphold their traditional values, which he added would remain relevant even during the era of modernization.

Sumber: The Jakarta Post, Wed, 01/14/2009