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(6/29/2010) Bali is faced with three critical infrastructure issues that must be correctly addressed in order to help turn around what is seen by most as destination in decline.
The main areas of concern :
• The Airport working at full capacity, Ngurah Rai International Airport's single runway is too short to handle the current generation of long-haul jets. Environmental and geographical limitations make an extension of the airport's runway problematic, at best.
• Traffic Congestion The island's booming tourist numbers and an almost permanent traffic bottleneck at the Simpang Siur intersection and at the Bali airport, demand a solution to improve traffic flows between the main island and the southernmost peninsula.
• Facilitating a Growing Cruise Business In keeping with Indonesia's desire to encourage cruise tourism, Bali needs a viable cruise port that can safely and efficiently handle the large cruise ships eager to include the island on their world and regional itineraries.
3 Separate Problems – A Single Developmental Matrix
Development of a small, closely integrated island such as Bali demands careful balancing and coordination to avoid creating unforeseen problems in the rush to address current dilemmas. This is nowhere more evident than in what appears to be the uncoordinated and disparate steps now underway to address the three areas listed above.
Tanah Ampo Port Facility
In a fumbling attempt to facilitate cruise tourism, the government of Karangasem has built a cruise terminal in east Bali. Unfortunately, this was done without little reference or consultation with the private sector or the international cruise industry. The result is a port facility inexpertly conceived that failed to impress a group of international cruise operators hosted on a recent inspection visit to Bali.
The lack of a viable docking facility capable of handling even the small tenders carried by cruise ships has cruise companies bypassing the new port and devising ways to bring their ships to the busy southern seaport of Benoa. Also missing from the plans of Tanah Ampo's developers is the consideration that Bali's busiest cruise season occurs when westerly winds are at their strongest, a fact that necessitates a costly and environmentally controversial breakwater to make East Bali truly attractive for cruise ship operations.
Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport
The single runway at Bali's airport is too short to handle a fully-fueled wide-bodied jet wanting to fly non-stop to Europe or the U.S.A. The eastern end of the current runway ends at the water's edge where extension of the runway would require costly reclamation of land that would likely cause beach erosion in the popular tourist areas of Jimbaran and Kuta. The opposite end of the runway ends at the edge of the sole four-lane highway connecting the southern peninsula with the main island. Any extension in this direction would necessitate tunneling the current road under an active runway and the destruction of protected mangrove forests.
The North-South Traffic Snarl
Efforts to solve the current north-south traffic jam are being addressed by plans to build a traffic flyover at Simpang Siur in 2011. Local legislators are also eager to see a toll bridge be built connecting Serangan Island and Tanjung Benoa (STB) as a means of diverting vehicular congestion.
In the case of the flyover at Simpang Siur, Bali's governor has dismissed those urging a more aesthetically pleasing underpass, citing the higher cost of tunneling is more than the provincial and national budget can bear.
Meanwhile, how the government addresses the STB toll bridge project has potentially destructive repercussions on a number of levels, no pun intended. First, the proposed toll bridge spans the entrance to the Benoa Harbor where current plans to build a bridge with only 33 meters under-bridge clearance would effectively end any chance of Benoa becoming a major international port. Second, the height of any bridge over the Benoa Port is also flight-path restricted by the proposed location's in almost direct alignment with the end of the airport's runway, less than 5,000 meters away. If the western end of the current runway is eventually extended, this critical distance for plans on take-off and final approach will shrink even further.
Bali as an International Cruise Destination
If the proposed STB bridge is built, effectively closing Benoa to cruise ship visits before putting into place a well-conceived and potentially costly plan to make Tanah Ampo viable for cruise operations, Bali faces the risk losing the lucrative cruise market. With attractive port facilities being developed across the regions and the increasingly rigorous standards for passenger safety demanded by cruise operators, major cruise companies may have little choice but to sail past Bali if Tanah Ampo stays as it is and Benoa is permanently closed to their visits.
The Need for an Underground Solution
Although perhaps not initially apparent to all, how Bali addresses the infrastructure strain of port operations, traffic congestion and air access are intimately intertwined. Get just one aspect wrong and the remaining two will be affected, impacting how Bali will grow and develop for decades to come.
While we do not pretend to know all the answers, we think that tunnels and underpasses make sense for Bali, especially if such projects are amortized over 30-50 years and the cost of "getting it wrong" are also entered into the calculation.