Beijing has rejected the proposal for a new bridge connecting Macau and Taipa, citing safety concerns, the Macau Infrastructure Development Office (GIT) informed on Friday.
According to local newspaper Macau Daily Times, authorities in the Chinese capital are demanding further studies on route safety before approval can be granted, calling into question the substantial financial investment that has already gone into the project.
Earmarked as the fourth Macau-Taipa link, the project was intended to connect the reclaimed land at Zone A, east of the peninsula, with Zone E1, northwest of the airport.
The GIT submitted the bridge proposal to the Central Government in July 2016, but received a reply last month that the project could not be green-lit before further studies into safety and waterway conditions had been conducted.
Beijing’s rejection comes less than two months after Macau’s government awarded a MOP188.37 million contract to Ove Arup & Partners Limited, a Hong Kong design and engineering solutions company, to provide project management services between 2017 and 2021.
Last September, the local government also awarded a separate contract for the preliminary design of the fourth bridge to a mainland-based state-owned enterprise, CCCC Highway Consultants Co. The MOP75.19 million contract was to be paid in three installments between 2016 and 2019.
It remains unclear why local authorities required approval from the Central Government. Transportation, infrastructure and urban planning fall within the scope of Macau’s local autonomy, and the proposed site for the bridge was located in Macau’s maritime jurisdiction.
Speaking to public broadcaster TDM, GIT representative Chao Vai Man said that it was “all about the safety of the route as the proposed location of the fourth bridge is in the middle of a high-speed waterway.”
“[We need to] conduct further research before we submit it to the Central Government for a second look,” he said, adding that “the research will begin as soon as we obtain the approval from the SAR government.”
According to Macau’s Five-Year Development Plan (2016-2020), construction on the fourth bridge was scheduled to begin this year and conclude by 2019, with an opening scheduled for 2020.
With the future of the fourth link in limbo, transportation authorities may now double down on the so-called fifth link: an underwater tunnel envisioned to run parallel and between the Governador Nobre do Carvalho Bridge and the Friendship Bridge.
The tunnel – intended to complement the bridge and not substitute it – is likely to be a considerably more expensive project, mile-for-mile, due to more complex construction methods and the need to safeguard the structure from water pressure in the South China Sea.
Earlier this month, the head of the Legislative Follow-up Committee for Land and Public Concession Affairs, Ho Ion Sang, said that the government will release the plan for the tunnel project by the end of this year.