PT Ferry Indonesia director Bambang Soerjanto’s claims that the new bridge linking the East Java provincial capital Surabaya with Madura Island would not significantly affect its business did not seem to be represented by the facts, according to at least one commuter.
Muhammad Fadholi, who travels from Madura to Surabaya where he works as a barber, told the Jakarta Globe after the bridge was officially opened on Thursday that not only was using the bridge quicker, it was considerably cheaper — the bridge toll for a one-way journey is Rp 35,000 ($3.50) compared to the ferry fare of Rp 65,000.
The opening of the Suramadu Bridge was the culmination of a 50-year dream in the Tri Nusa Bima Sakti (Three Islands Constellation) project, which aims to unite Java with the islands of Madura, Bali and Sumatra.
“It is a pleasure and pride for us Indonesians that on this day, after nearly half a century, the dream of Indonesians to have a bridge connecting Java and Madura has finally come true,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said during the opening ceremony.
Minister of Public Works Joko Kirmanto said the construction of the bridge has a long history, beginning with a presidential decree in 1990.
“Initial plans for the bridge were discussed with BPPT [the state-run Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology] in 1992. [The design] called for a central span of only 150 meters,” Joko said.
The Asian economic crisis in 1997 forced the government to table some major infrastructure projects, including the Suramadu Bridge, according to a 1997 presidential decree.
As the economy slowly began to climb back, the government issued a presidential decree in 2002 to restart the construction of the bridge.
“To follow up on the presidential decree, the Ministry of Public Works had re-evaluated the bridge design, taking into account the space needed for maritime transportation and the latest bridge technology, for better efficiency,” Joko said.
The bridge was redesigned to include a main span of 400 meters rather than 150 meters.
For the central span of the country’s newest landmark, a cable-stayed design, a kind of suspension bridge, had been chosen for economic and esthetic reasons.
During the launch ceremony, Yudhoyono touted the new bridge as the latest accomplishment in a long history of the country’s “infrastructure masterpieces.”
He cited as examples the Senayan Stadium and Hotel Indonesia, two of Jakarta’s main landmarks built in the ’60s.
He also included the country’s launch of a communications satellite called Palapa in the ’70s. Yudhoyono also lumped together technological advances such as the country’s achievements in aeronautics in the ’80s and ’90s, and, most recently, the introduction of digital television on May 30.
The government has pushed for infrastructure spending in an effort to stimulate the economy and stave off job losses during the downturn. Yudhoyono said the government had earmarked Rp 75.64 trillion for infrastructure development, including transportation, power plants, irrigation, housing and rebuilding in disaster-struck areas.