Actually, this highway had been partially opened to traffic last year. The first completed portion from Senai to Tanjung Langsat in Pasir Gudang was made available for use, pending the completion of the bridge crossing Sungai Johor.
This post is not to discuss the A-G's findings about the expressway project. Upon reading the news article, I thought I might try take a drive across this new bridge just for the fun of it, having previously driven on the Senai to Tg. Langsat stretch. And so earlier this afternoon, I took my car out for a spin and headed eastwards towards Pasir Gudang and entered the highway at Tanjung Langsat. From there, it was a mere 38km to reach Desaru, a beach resort area facing the South China Sea. The original route from JB to Desaru requires us to take the long road via Kota Tinggi town, a journey that can take up to two hours.
From the Tanjung Langsat interchange towards Cahaya Baru toll plaza, the highway is the standard dual-carriageway design that we see at most other toll highways in Malaysia. From Cahaya Baru towards Desaru, the highway is surprisingly single-lane, just like a standard rural road. There is not even a central divider, which means that you can actually make a 3-point turn and go back the way you just came, although there are numerous signboards warning you not to do so. Obviously, this single carriageway construction is temporary, possibly due to cost constraints. At present, the traffic volume plying this route is way below the designed projections.
The bridge spanning Sungai Johor is a four-lane cabled-stayed bridge rising high above the river. To my eyes, the bridge design is quite beautiful. However, the quality of construction of the road linking this bridge is quite poor. I am surprised the authorities allowed the concession holder to operate the highway without first rectifying the defects evident at certain stretches. Notwithstanding this minor grouse, I do find the highway very convenient if I wish to make a trip to Desaru or any other part of south-east Johor. The toll from Cahaya Baru was RM5.90, reasonable enough if you consider the time saved. Just be extra careful when you drive on this road and don't speed unnecessarily.
I took a photo of the bridge before crossing it and was thinking of taking some more pics of the river from the middle of the bridge. Unfortunately, vehicles are not allowed to stop on the bridge itself, so I proceeded to take a leisurely drive towards Desaru and also to Tanjung Balau beach. On the return trip to Johor Bahru, I decided to use the old route via Kota Tinggi but first made a stop at Teluk Sengat village for another view of the bridge. Teluk Sengat is located on the eastern bank of Sungai Johor and the new highway bridge is downstream southwards.
|Approaching the bridge. Traffic was light, hence this pic taken while standing right in the middle of the road.|
|View from Teluk Sengat southwards. Low tide.|
|Senai-Desaru Expressway Route Map. Borrowed from here -> SDE Map|
Desaru and Tanjung Balau claim to have the best beaches in Johor and the state government has long been promoting this area as a tourist attraction. There are a number of quality hotels and resorts along the coast. I have stayed at Desaru only once before. Being a Johorean myself, I'd say that there are many other lovelier beaches you can find in other parts of Malaysia.