The construction of the second phase of the Pan Borneo Highway, stretching from Miri to Lawas, could start as soon as next year.
Works Minister Baru Bian said the construction of this stretch, described as the missing link for the highway project, will not be under the coming 12th Malaysian Plan (12 MP).
He said the Ministry is still assessing the costs and its details will be revealed when the time comes.
"As far as we are concerned, the second phase is part of the first phase (for this project). Meaning to say, that one (the second phase) can commence as soon as possible (once we have the budget).
"I will be looking at the budget estimation. To me, this is something which needs to be expedited. I am looking at even probably start it next year if possible," he told reporters at the Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen's Chinese New Year open house here yesterday.
The first phase of Pan Borneo Highway, from Sematan to Miri, is in various stages of construction while the 33km Telok Melano to Sematan stretch has been completed.
As for the second phase, the proposed route was to start from Miri to Limbang and then Lawas, without passing Brunei.
Based on previous news reports, the distance of the missing stretch is about 250km and it would cost about RM3.5 billion to construct.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on his visit to Brunei last September, said the highway project would not go through Brunei after taking into account the cost as well as immigration issues.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Jemut Masing had also recently expressed support for the construction of the second phase of the highway to bypass Brunei as it will benefit the people residing in the interior of Sarawak's northern region.
Masing, who is also the state's Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications, in his winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly last November said said the ministry recently received a letter dated Nov 1, 2018 from the Works Ministry to consider the proposed project.
On another matter, Baru who is also Ba'Kelalan assemblyman and Selangau MP, said the ministry has written to the project delivery partner Lebuhraya Borneo Utara Sdn Bhd (LBU) to constantly monitor the project implementation to ensure safety for motorists and to minimise delays.
He said he had been receiving complaints about poor road conditions which posed a danger to motorists.
"They must ensure safety, and also they must do whatever they can do to ensure the project is completed in time.
"As I have said before, this is the only highway we have in Sarawak and we want it to be implemented with minimal costs and completed on schedule," he emphasised.