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Fri 16 Feb 2007 02:41 PM

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Dubai unveils GCC's first road pricing scheme

Dubai Roads & Transport Authority risks accusations of insensitivity by announcing luxury waterfront headquarters in the same week.

The first road-charging scheme in the Middle East is being implemented in the region's capital of congestion: Dubai.

A "congestion zone" is being created stretching between Garhoud Bridge in the North of the city and Shaikh Zayed Road near Mall of the Emirates in the South.

From July this year, any car entering or leaving the zone will be charged Dhs4.

Dubai Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) studies state that 8,000 vehicles per hour currently cross Garhoud Bridge during peak hours in both directions and 130,000 vehicles per day use Shaikh Zayed Road.

The RTA hopes that the charges will reduce traffic by around 25%, which at 97,500 vehicles per day will net the Dubai government Dhs142.4 million ($47.4 million) per year.

No details have been released on how this money will be spent, but the news has been announced in the same week that the Road Traffic Authority unveiled plans for a stunning new headquarters.

The toll system, which has been optimistically called "Salik", the Arabic for "clear", will be operational in both directions so motorists will be charged Dhs4 as they enter and as they leave the congestion zone.

It will operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

As the plan stands, drivers will be able to avoid the tolls by entering the Salik zone via other roads.

Drivers from Sharjah to the Dubai International Finance Centre, for example, could take the Emirates Road at no charge.

However, tollgates will be installed at additional routes into and out of Dubai as they become necessary.

"The main idea of introducing Salik is to reduce congestion and for better traffic management on Shaikh Zayed Road, one of the most crowded highways in the city, and to make motorists use alternate routes and other modes of transportation," said Maitha Obaid Bin Udai, CEO of the Traffic and Roads Agency at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

Dubai motorists are certain at times to feel the pain of paying Dhs4 for the privilege of sitting in a traffic jam on Garhoud Bridge, while looking up at a brand new headquarters being built for the Road Traffic Authority.

This week the RTA's board of directors approved the design of the authority's permanent headquarters, which will look down on Garhoud Bridge from banks of the Creek.

The striking 22-storey building, according to the RTA, will feature facades that change according to where they are seen from and in what light.

Giant screens will also be fixed on the building that will offer messages to motorists that will be visible from long distances.

It will be surrounded by water and will give the impression of floating, according to its architects.

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