Highway design: Delivering the best for Malaysia

July 21, 2014
Travel Smarter

The majority of highways in Malaysia are designed as four-lane (two lane, dual carriageway) high-speed routes, with most expressways having controlled access, meaning they are designed for high-speed vehicular traffic made for smooth flowing long distance travel.

In developing the highways, toll concessionaires are required to adhere to strict guidelines set by the Authorities, such as below:

  1. Guideline for Malaysia Toll Expressway System – Design Standard LLM/GP/T5-08
  2. Guideline for Malaysia Toll Expressway System – Design Standard M&E
  3. Expressway Signing System – Guidelines & Design application (T1/07)
  4. Garis panduan Perlaksanaan Pengurusan Traffik
  5. MASMA, JPS, JAS & RSA guidelines
  6. All relevant Malaysian, British, Eurocodes or American standards

Each of the Malaysian highways is unique. Besides meeting specific objectives such as better traffic flow, many of the highways in Malaysia have been designed to overcome any challenges that might be encountered or to accommodate any necessary adjustments while construction is underway.

For example, during the construction of the New Pantai Expressway (NPE) in 2001 to 2004, various innovative methods were employed. For example, caissons measuring 30 to 40 metres deep, which secure the 10 to 15 metres high piers for the elevated section of the expressway, were hand-dug while the cemented cross-heads laid on top of the piers were pre-cast-off-site. These measures led to a reduced traffic disruption on parts of the expressway’s alignment that sat on the existing roads, such as the Old Klang Road. These construction innovations also minimised costs, an important consideration as the budget for the construction was fixed ten years before the highway was completed. NPE was also the first expressway to use precast crosshead construction that expedites construction and minimizes interference to existing traffic flow, as scaffolding was not used.

Besraya Eastern Extension (BEE) was probably the first expressway where a 700 metre long diversion of Sg Kerayong had to be done to accommodate the Ikan Emas Interchange. The new channel provided was wider and deeper than the original one.

In the case of Lebuhraya KL – Karak (KLK), it was originally built in 1970s by the Government of Malaysia as an alternative for the winding and narrow Malaysian Federal Route 68 (Federal Route; JKR 68) which runs from Gombak in Selangor to Bentong in Pahang. The highway included a 900-metre tunnel at Genting Sempah, which became Malaysia’s first highway tunnel ever constructed. It was officially opened in 1979 by the then Minister of Works and Communications, Dato Abdul Ghani Gilong. However, the cost of the construction of this highway was considered expensive then, as Malaysia was then still a developing, agricultural-based country. As such, the Government needed to recoup the cost of constructing the highway and the tunnel and decided that the KLK be made into a toll road. Subsequently, two toll houses were constructed at Gombak and Bentong and the toll road was administered by the Malaysian Highway Authority. The highway was officially opened to traffic in 1977.

The importance of KLK as the main road from Kuala Lumpur to the eastern states of Peninsular Malaysia resulted in the Government’s decision to upgrade the route into a multi-lane highway by duplicating the whole highway stretch at another side. Thus, the former 2-lane highway became a dual-carriageway with six lanes (three at each direction) from Gombak KM 19.2 to Selesa Hill Homes KM 42. The upgrading works also included the construction of a second tunnel located beside the existing tunnel to provide additional two lanes for eastbound traffic, widening the toll gates at Gombak and Bentong and also constructing interchanges to replace junctions. However, some junctions were impossible to be upgraded to interchanges due to their geographical locations and therefore some U-turns were constructed to provide entry and exit to the junction for the opposite direction of the Highway.

The North – South Expressway Central Link, commonly known as the ELITE highway, has some unique features incorporated in its design as well. The two kilometre Batu Tiga flyover is the longest flyover in the entire North – South Expressway (NSE) network. Shaped like a box girder, the flyover connects the Shah Alam Interchange in the north with the Ebor Interchange in the south. This highway is also the first of its kind to have a go-kart circuit facility that serves as a recreational centre.

The Eastern Dispersal Link Expressway (EDL) was designed to effectively disperse traffic within and along the main artery roads including the Pandan Interchange, Bakar Batu Interchange, Jalan Tebrau, Permas Jaya/Pasir Gudang and Johor Bahru city towards the CIQ. The elevated section of the highway (4.4 kilometres) was constructed on top of the existing Jalan Stulang Darat and Jalan Pasir Pelangi. The crossheads were constructed of pre-stressed and precast segments (5 segments), which sped up the construction process time and reduced traffic congestion as less traffic was diverted on the existing road during the construction period.

Lebuhraya Damansara – Puchong (LDP) is another expressway that has spent extensively to ensure its paying customers get the best service available. Its concessionaire Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (LITRAK) has invested RM1 billion in projects that were aimed to lessen congestion. Over the years, LITRAK has added and widened more lanes, installed more interchanges and upgraded existing junctions. Among all these improvements however, the most ground-breaking solution the concessionaire introduced was the contraflow on the south-bound stretch of the highway at the Sunway Toll Plaza. This effort has resulted in a significant reduction in traffic congestion during rush hour and was welcomed by the public.

The 77 km long design and build Senai – Desaru Expressway (SDE) also includes the landmark 1.7-km long state-of-the-art cable-stayed bridge with a 500-metre mid-span across Sungai Johor. The cable-stayed bridge consists of 740 metre long composite steel and concrete box girders for the main spans which are attached to two 150-metre main pylons. The remaining 968 metre of the approach decks are structured using multi-cell concrete box girder sections.

Lebuhraya SMART (SMART) has many detailed safety features for the convenience of commuters, especially during the rainy season. The concessionaire installed four ventilation and emergency shafts at every kilometre, besides also placing cross passages every 250 metres along the stretch of the tunnel as emergency exits. Those four ventilation shafts also allow for smoke control should a fire occur in the tunnel. As an accident prevention measure, large vehicles exceeding two metres in height are also not allowed in the tunnel.

Lebuhraya Malaysia – Singapura Lintasan Kedua (LINKEDUA) supports a dual three-lane carriageway linking Kampung Ladang at Tanjung Kupang in Johor and Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim in Tuas, Singapore. LINKEDUA allows visitors to and from Singapore to avoid the often-congested Causeway and the busy Johor Bahru city centre. The Second Link that extends 44 km from Malaysia to Singapore has a two-metre-wide paved shoulder along each carriageway for emergency stops and an emergency U-turn facility at the centre of the main navigational span.

The Lebuhraya Cheras – Kajang (GRAND SAGA) was designed to provide a safe, efficient, economical and environmental friendly highway system, with safety being the main consideration. The company also took into account the projected traffic volume and speed which are are the basic criteria that affect operation and safety. The alignment of the highway is designed to integrate strategically with the existing main junctions (based on road hierarchy) that enhance network connection and promote economic growth and development locally. The toll concessionaire has also provided route that is convenient for those do not want to use the toll crossing. The development of the highway also takes into consideration the need to minimise any negative environmental impact by complying with environmental concerns such as air and water quality.

The award-winning Sungai Perai Bridge was designed in a way so as not to disrupt vehicular or river traffic. The bridge is a dual-three lane single-plane cable-stayed bridge connecting the banks of the river and is part of the Lebuhraya Lingkaran Luar Butterworth (LLB). An aesthetically beautiful bridge, its design has won the Award for Transportation Structures and the prestigious Supreme Award in 2006 from the Institution of Structural Engineers UK, Structural Award. The 30m wide deck is totally pre-cast comprising segmental spine box girder with side span on each side, post-tensioned longitudinally and transversely with no cross-beams. The bridge piers spaced 50 metres apart and consist of two independent leaf structures connected to the bridge deck. The 185-metre main span is supported by two 40-metre high reinforced concrete (grade 80 N/mm2) cable-stay pylons. The construction was done using overhead launching gantry, which did not disrupt vehicular or river traffic. A portion of the LLB was constructed on reclaimed land from the sea next to the North Butterworth Container Terminal. This area was inhabited by around 800 squatter families whose houses were proned to damage by high waves from the sea. With the relocation of these squatters and the construction of LLB, it is now a thing of the past.

Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) strength lies in its favourable geometry. It was built according to the Public Works Department’s R6 (or expressway) design standards and criteria. Each lane is 3.65 metre wide compared to the R5 standard of 3.5 metre and its curves are smooth with no sharp bends. The presence of dedicated motorcycle lanes also reduces the number of accidents.

Lebuh Raya Shah Alam (KESAS) has in April 2014 carried out a new traffic dispersal scheme at Persiaran Kewajipan by constructing an elevated U-turn to reduce the traffic light phase and carrying out lane widening works at KM 35 to KM 36 east bound to ensure smooth traffic flow.

The KL – Kuala Selangor Expressway (LATAR) expedites the growth of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and acts as an indispensible catalyst in the development of the Sungai Buloh – Kuala Selangor corridor. It connects communities and families – the residents in the townships of Kuala Selangor, Assam Jawa, Ijok, Batang Berjuntai, Kota Puteri, Puncak Alam, Shah Alam, Bukit Jelutong, Sungai Buloh, Kundang, Rawang and Selayang — in their quiet and safe enjoyment of a better quality of life, whilst providing commercial users with a vital and faster link to other areas. LATAR forms part of the Government-initiated Kuala Lumpur Outer Ring Road (KLORR) to enable faster dispersal of vehicular traffic and increase accessibility from the city centre and the greater Kuala Lumpur area.

LATAR is also linked to NSE, GCE, West Coast Expressway (WCE) and East Coast Expressway (ECE) via Federal Route 1 (FR1). Ijok Interchange [Exit 2501] is a diamond Interchange, which interfaces with Jalan Kuala Selangor and has a junction signalised with Federal Route 54. In the future, this Interchange will feed into the West Coast Expressway. A trumpet Interchange at Puncak Alam [Exit2503] allows for a free flow of traffic; is presently home to University Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) smart campus and a major township – Bandar Puncak Alam – and future developments are in progress. The purpose of the clover leaf Interchange at Kuang [Exit 2506] is to act as a system interchange. As three major highways (LATAR, NSE and GCE) cross together at this Interchange, there must be a systematic dispersal of traffic. The North-South and GCE disperse to local routes further downstream, whereas LATAR is used to feed traffic in and out of all three. Templer’s Park Interchange [Exit 2508] consists of directional ramps. These allow for local dispersal of traffic in and out of Federal Route 1 and LATAR. Ramps are an expensive option, but are required at this Interchange in order to skirt around the forest reserve.