Construction of the tunnel is due to start this year, but Minister Lim Guan Eng is writing to Malaysia's works minster, Datuk Fadillah Yusof, saying that he wants the state goverment to be allowed to build a toll-free bridge to Penang Island instead.

The state has also been having difficulties securing government support for a proposed light rail system. "From this painful experience, it would be difficult to secure a response to build a 3rd Bridge, much less obtain federal government approval to build a 3rd bridge, even one that is self-financed by the state government at our own expense," said Lim.

The previous state government had surrendered the rights to the federal government to build any bridges linking the island to the mainland, he said. However, there is no mention of a need for such approvals for tunnel link. This, he says, is why the state government opted for a tunnel link at more than twice the cost of a bridge. 

"If the works minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof can give approval to build a bridge instead of the tunnel, this will save cost," said Lim, as the tunnel will cost about US$896 million whereas a bridge would be about US$436 million. "Such cost savings may allow the state government to waive the need to charge tolls for using the 3rd bridge," he added.