Guangdong has reached an agreement with Hong Kong and Macao on funding a cross-sea bridge to link the three neighbors, the province's governor said.
"The bridge will cost 42.2 billion yuan ($5.9 billion). The project will be partly funded by the governments of the three regions, and the rest will be raised through public bidding," Governor Huang Huahua, who is also a deputy to the 11th NPC, told reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the top legislature.
The bridge, which will link Hong Kong and Macao to Zhuhai, a city to the southwest of the Pearl River Delta, will create a shortcut between the three cities.
The three already enjoy close economic ties, but they must contend with a complicated network of ferries and zigzagging roads for transportation.
Once completed, the project is expected to reduce the journey times between the cities from the current five or six hours to less than one hour. It will also help cut transport costs.
The operators of the bridge have the right to charge tolls for 50 years, but it is estimated it will take a little less than 37 years for them to recoup their costs, Huang said.
"Experts have completed 21 studies on the project, and more investigations are to come, including an environmental impact assessment," he said.
The project is expected to boost economic development in the region and improve the comprehensive competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta area, experts have said.
Guangdong has been a key laboratory for experiments involving the country's reform and opening up policy over the past 30 years.
The southern province saw its gross domestic product rise 14.5 percent year-on-year in 2007, to 3 trillion yuan, accounting for about one-eighth of the country's total.
The plan to build the cross-sea bridge is just one of the moves Guangdong has made to strengthen its economic cooperation with Hong Kong and Macao.
Huang said the provincial authorities will invest in infrastructure in the Pearl River Delta, which has become a magnet for overseas investors, particularly from Hong Kong and Macao.
A complex rail transit network is also in the pipeline that will one day ensure that a journey between any two cities in the region takes less than one hour, Huang said.
The governor said he expects Shenzhen, which is the closest city to Hong Kong, to set an example for the whole province's close relations with the special administrative region.