By Elizabeth Broomhall
How Abu Dhabi is reshaping itself in line with its 2030 economic plan
Abu Dhabi has come a long way in the last 40 years. From a population of 25,000 in 1960 to almost 900,000 in 2009, the city has transformed from dusty, barren, desert land, to a wealthy, cosmopolitan metropolis, home to a number of important financial institutions, company HQs and high-ranking business people.
Accordingly, the government of the UAE’s capital has earmarked 2030 as the year that Abu Dhabi will no longer be as dependent on oil, the year that tourism, industry, real estate and retail will come into their own in line with the city’s fast-paced economic development. This vision, whilst hoping to create an array of new jobs and increase the amount of investment into the Emirate, also expects to push the Abu Dhabi government into the top five rated governments around the world.
Speaking at the International Roads Federation (IRF) Middle East Regional Congress held in Abu Dhabi in November , Undersecretary for the Department of Municipal Affairs Ahmed Shareef explained that this vision was highly dependent on the Emirate and city having the appropriate infrastructure.
“To be counted amongst the top five governments in the world demands the best transport infrastructure. Over the last five years, we have sought to transform our transport system by embarking upon some of the most ambitious infrastructure expansions ever seen.”
At the Roadex-Railex exhibition, which was held in conjunction with the IRF Congress, the Municipal system showcased nine recent projects. These projects are divided between The Department of Municipal Affairs, Abu Dhabi City Municipality, Al Ain Municipality and the Western Region Municipality.
Abu Dhabi’s top recent infrastructure projects
Abu Dhabi Addressing System
One of the less obvious, but equally important transport infrastructure projects is one by the DMA, three municipalities and selected government entities to implement a system of clear and consistent street and building signage in Abu Dhabi. Working with the ARRB Group – international specialists in transport research and consultancy – the DMA is preparing a manual that will provide guidelines for the municipalities to implement the new addressing system. It is hoped that the new signage system, which will involve naming and signing 9,000 streets, will make the UAE capital easier to navigate around. It will be put into practice by the end of 2011, by which time, in line with the plans, all roads will have a unique name with large road signs visible in both Arabic and English. To ensure clarity, buildings will be numbered starting at one end of the road and rising in sequence – with odd on one side of the road and even on the other. There have also been rumors of plans to introduce a postcode and GPS system for use by the emergency services in the region.
Al Salam Street and Eastern Circular Streets Abu Dhabi
This initiative by Abu Dhabi Municipality to transform the existing Al Salam Street alignment into an uninterrupted traffic corridor is one of the most important road projects in Abu Dhabi as is part of the municipality’s strategy to develop the city’s infrastructure. Running from the Sheikh Zayed Bridge through to the Mina area, the project is 20km long, includes four bridges as well as several tunnels, surface roadways and junctions that will ease traffic congestion. It will cost $5 billion to build, and is split across four construction contracts for grade-separated interchanges, tunnels, road widening and other improvements. The first contract, awarded to Samsung and Saif Bin Darwish, is the biggest, and involves building four lanes in each direction passing through a tunnel from Mina Road under the Al Salam Street, crossing the Al Farah Street intersection. The contractor is also building tunnels to connect Al Salam Street with Al Corniche Road. The route is expected to carry more than 6,000 vehicles per hour. Upon completion of the entire project, the road will make free flowing traffic across the city of Abu Dhabi a reality for the first time.
Storm water drainage in Madinat Zayed, Abu Dhabi
This is a vital project to deal with heavy rain fall. It covers the area from Al Dhafra Club to the intersection of the Cars Valley Exhibition, all through the main road, passing by the ruler’s court, the municipality’s main building, and Al Dhafra Co-op. It aims to ensure that any surplus rain water on the main road and in the car park flows easily away to the pumping station before being pumped over 2.3 km to a 8775m2 reservoir. It is being developed by the Western Region Municipality.
Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Abu Dhabi
After seven years of construction, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, one of the most important and vital projects in Abu Dhabi, is finally complete. Not only was it one of the most complex structures to build in the world, defying all standard engineering principles, but it was also designed to be an icon and a landmark for Abu Dhabi. It is 850m long, 20m above sea level and consists of four lanes of traffic with a width of 3.65m for each lane and an additional 3m of hard shoulder.
Developed by Abu Dhabi City Municipality, it allows easy access for small boats and ships, and will decrease traffic congestion across the Emirate by 15 minutes. To construct, contractors used sophisticated techniques and building equipment, and relied upon specialist engineering expertise to ensure it was stable in accordance with the design criteria. In November, the bridge was visited and officially opened by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and emir of Abu Dhabi, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England, with a special light display.
Al Dahar 5 – infrastructure, Al Ain
The Dubai-Al Ain road project is another major infrastructure project in Al Ain due for completion in September next year. This project will implement a design that will use building materials that are able to create a green and environmentally friendly city. It is a project by Al Ain Municipality, which is also reportedly implementing a major road safety audit in the city aimed at making the city’s roads safer. The audit is expected to be complete by summer next year, and will identify high risk roads. Remedial measures will then be implemented over time, to minimise the number fatalities and injury-causing crashes in the city, which have been on the increase in recent years.
Another major infrastructure project in Al Ain is the Dubai-Al Ain road project – which is the largest of the projects within the city’s infrastructure development plan and part of a wider AED900m scheme by the Municipality to improve road and transport networks in the area. Announced in 2008, the AED780m expansion project is due for completion in September next year.
Improving the Northern Ring Road in Al Ain
Another Al Ain Municipality project, this will increase overall road effectiveness by connecting the city to the Emirate’s transport network by bridges, tunnels, and intersections. It will see the construction of a new dual carriage way (6.5 km approximately), the upgrading of existing northern ring road (12.8 km approximately), the construction of a three-lane flyover bridge (Interchange-1) at Al Ain – Dubai Road, the construction of a four-lane dual carriage way underpass, the construction of the Al Foah Underpass and Underpass 2A, and the building of Wadi Bridges near Interchange-1 and Interchange-2.
Al Mafraq Bridge, Abu Dhabi
Al Mafraq Bridge was opened at the beginning of November 2010, at a cost of AED830 million. The main contract, which was awarded to Al Jaber Engineering and Contracting in 2008, included the construction of a main bridge in the direction of Dubai – Al Ghuwaifat; two smaller bridges – one in the direction of Abu Dhabi/Al Shahama, and the other outbound from Al Ain westward; and four slip roads extending 18 km. With 27 lanes and a total hourly vehicle capacity of 24,000 cars, it is one of the Emirate’s most vital projects. The main dual bridge across Dubai – Al Ghuwaifat Road extends 75 metres in length and comprises eight lanes (four in each direction). It measures 54 metres in width, 10 metres in height and has supporting pillars. By contrast, the 800-metre flyover from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain is a one-direction road comprising of two lanes, is 21 metres in height, 17 metres in width and has 18 supporting pillars. The bridge, which aimed to enhance access to and from the UAE capital, increase the efficiency of the bridge, ensure the safety of road users, keep pace with demographic change and ease congestion, has had a major positive impact on the traffic in Abu Dhabi in particular as well as the UAE in general.
Telal Liwa Hotel Access Road, Abu Dhabi
This is an important project in the region being developed by the Western Region Municipality. It is comprised of a road with two roundabouts at the end of Million Street, close to the camel racing area in Madinat Zayed. It includes street lighting, car parks, and a three-kilometre circular road around the hotel that serves employees, service rooms, and storage areas.
Protection of Abu Dhabi’s rocky shoreline
Another Western Region Municipality project, this development was implemented to protect the 1.1km of the rocky coast behind Delma Island hospital – the environment becoming more and more important in the region, not to mention significant in enhancing Abu Dhabi’s reputation in line with the 2030 vision. The project aims to protect the coast lines from erosion, reduce the coastal impact of waves using wave breakers provide a marina for small boats and make the coastline more attractive.