RAWANG: As this writer was driving along the newly opened Rawang Bypass, she can’t help but to admire that breathtaking scenery which this road has to offer.
Righly labelled as one of the unique landmarks in the road construction history, the 9km Rawang Bypass is perhaps one of the most complex, innovative and interesting roads in Malaysia.
The purpose of this bypass is to resolve the massive congestion that has plagued motorists for years, especially those travelling from Serendah and Rawang. The opening of this stretch of road on November 28, 2017 would most definitely sort out that problem.
But what the Rawang Bypass also offers is the sheer beauty and marvel of its construction work, complemented adequately by the natural beauty offered by mother nature. Just imagine, a gigantic construction work in the middle of a protected forest, but yet the environment is properly protected by the project. Kudos indeed to the developers.
For more than 30,000 road users who enjoy the beautiful stretch of the bypass, it is a road that cuts through two dreary hours of traffic to a comfortable journey of 30 minutes to Serendah and to other nearby towns.
But for the construction fraternity, the Rawang Bypass is a work that ticks many engineering and technical boxes, making it a work of pride for years to come.
The Rawang Bypass construction project involved a total length of 21.5km stretch which started work on July 16, 2005 and finally completed last November at a cost of RM628 million.
The scope of work looked into upgrading the existing 12.5km of the Federal Road 1 (FT1), widening a two-lane road to four lanes, and constructing 9km of four-lane road from the Kanching Forest Reserve to Sungai Choh to bypass Rawang town. Part of the 9km road is a panoramic 2.7km elevated stretch that overlooks the top of 70-year old trees and wades through mist in the early morning or after rain.
Local expertise and considerations
For the project, the Public Works Department (JKR) engaged Panzana Enterprise Sdn Bhd as the turnkey contractor. Arup Jururunding Sdn Bhd acted as the consultant with a host of other local expertise that realised the complex scale of the project.
There were a multitude of considerations, chiefly environmental and technical factors that weighed heavily into the decisions made on the Rawang Bypass.
Strict considerations were made in terms of environment. The road was to run through the Selangor State Park that is home to 400 Giam Kanching (Hopea Subalata) trees, a species found only in this forest and no where else in the world. Adding another interesting twist to the matter, Giam Kanching trees are so protected that should anyone even touch one risks a fine of RM1 million.
There are also seven waterfalls, rivers, an orang asli settlement, wildlife tracks and not forgetting the rich flora and fauna that needed protection. Stringent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements showed that gaining approval for the bypass was like putting necks out on the chopping block. This resulted in the entire plan being scrapped and the team going back to the drawing board.
Innovative engineering solution
Rawang Bypass demanded intense investment of time – multiple feedback from numerous authorities that were collated and studied, recces, plannings, redesigns, meetings, discussions and execution. In short, the consensus was protecting and preserving the rich and invaluable biodiversity at all cost for posterity.
With that objective in mind, the Rawang Bypass was redesigned using environmentally friendly methods and technology, choosing a viaduct solution in lieu of the conventional cut and fill method to traverse through the stretch on environmentally sensitive area.
Chosen concept and methodology
The viaduct was based on the typical 40m span T-shape deck superstructure supported on double column pier on hand dug caisson. This means, as opposed to large piling machinery, construction personnel built the foundation by excavating shafts in the ground by means of manual digging. Two separate decks were then incorporated, one for each carriageway.
The deck itself was constructed with self Moveable Scaffolidng System (MSS) that allowed span by span construction. Used for the first time in Malaysia, MSS method is self launching and didn’t require any supporting cranes for handling the support brackets.
Other new methodologies were introduced as well, such as geo-grid and precast interlocking slab to protect the environment. The construction of silt trap and silt fence in specific locations controlled heavy runoffs.
Moving through mist and trees
It must be said that the long delay and the inflated cost for this project have paid off handsomely. Apart from protecting the environment, the bypass also treats motorists to a beautiful scenery, especially on the 2.7km elevated stretch that allows people to feel as if they are wading through the clouds high above the sky.
Looking at the top of tall trees, almost close enough to be touched, gives a wonderful feeling to those driving here. Amazingly, the entire construction used only 9.7ha of land of the reserve forest, thanks to the use of the elevated stretch. But it cannot be denied that the most important feature was to facilitate the lives and journey of motorists who travel between Rawang and Serendah.
Road users will be oblivious to the fact that the engineering feat was carried out fully with local expertise that looked into a multitude of considerations, spanning technical, engineering, technological and environmental aspects.
However, for the construction fraternity, the Rawang Bypass is a work of engineering innovation and ingenuity, ensuring that this project meets the aspirations and KPIs of the Construction Industry Transformation Programme (CITP) in a big way.
From safety, quality and professionalism to environmental sustainability, the project is a model to be emulated for future roads. Weekly toolbox meetings with the team drove them to practice safe work habits at all times. There was zero casualty bar one – a wild boar that made the mistake of entering the construction site and ended up becoming dinner for many of the foreign workers.
This bypass was labelled as being unique by a proud Minister of Works Dato’ Seri Fadillah Yusof during the launch on November 28. Going by what it offers, it is indeed!
[January 22, 2018]
This article is part of CIDB Success Story series.