In China, the giant Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is reportedly expected to be completed this year and span a 31-mile section of the Pearl River Delta to link the cities of Macau and Hong Kong.

According to a report from television and radio broadcaster Teledifusao De Macau, the revelation came from Anthony Cheung Bing-Leung, Hong Kong Transport And Housing Secretary, following an inspection of the project although he refused to specify an official commissioning date.

“At the moment, whether the main bridge in mainland waters or the Hong Kong-side works as well as the Macau and Zhuhai-side works, the objective is to complete the works by the end of this year,” Bing-Leung told the broadcaster.

First envisioned in the early-1980s, the project formally broke ground in December of 2009 and will run from Hong Kong International Airport on Lantau Island via a tunnel and three cable-stayed spans to a border checkpoint on a newly-created island just off the coast of Zhuhai before continuing on to Macau.

“We also need to make sure that we have all the arrangements for cross-boundary traffic to be finalized,” Bing-Leung told Teledifusao De Macau. “So the actual date of commissioning will eventually be determined by the three governments with the guidance of the central task force on the bridge.”

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge had been due to open last year but the government for Hong Kong previously revealed that this had been delayed due to a “shortage of labor, constraints in environmental protection requirements and slower than expected consolidation performance of reclamation works”.

A previous estimate put the cost for the project at approximately $10.6 billion with the main section requiring an outlay of around $2.29 billion. However, Bing-Leung told the South China Morning Post newspaper that this budget had already been exceeded with the final price due to be split on a proportional basis between the governments of China, Macau and Hong Kong.

“The final cost for the main bridge will be higher than the original estimate due to some construction and manpower challenges,” Bing-Leung told the South China Morning Post. “For the main bridge, due to the complexity and challenges of the project as well as the human resource challenges and other areas, the spending will be more than estimated. However, there is no confirmed figure yet.”

GGRAsia reported that the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is being seen by many analysts as an important development for the region that could lead to increased visitation and investment. Brokerage Sanford C Bernstein Limited explained via a January note authored by Vitaly Umansky, Zhen Gong and Yang Xie that Macau’s infrastructure “remains a limiting factor in driving increasing visitation, mass gaming revenues and non-gaming spend”.

“With the build-out of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge by the end of 2017 and opening in 2018, traffic time from Hong Kong International Airport to Macau is expected to be dramatically shortened to [about] 30 minutes,” read the note. “We view the infrastructure development as a key long-term catalyst for Macau to further penetrate the Chinese market, leading to greater visitation and better overnight visitation mix.”