Aiming at decongested road network

DUBAI — The countdown to a decongested road network in Dubai has begun with the announcement of the winning bid for Dubai’s Light Rail Transit System (LRT) on May 29.

By Zaigham Ali Mirza (SPECIAL REPORT)

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Published: Sat 4 Jun 2005, 10:37 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:56 PM

While the mammoth project, work on which is yet to begin, will take 55 months before it can start to relieve the emirate’s overloaded road network, many fear that the massive scale of construction at various locations in and around the heart of the city will add to the existing traffic chaos.

Following the announcement of the winning bid, Qassim Sultan, Director-General of Dubai Municipality and Chairman of the Committee for Dubai LRT project, when asked about the likely impact of the construction of the rail project on city’s traffic situation, admitted there will be some effects but said that the civic body has ‘plans’ to tackle the situation.

Khaleej Times looks at some of the proposed and under-construction road and transportation projects that could be part of the civic body’s plan and will be instrumental in alleviating the traffic situation in Dubai.

As it stands today, Dubai’s road network does not need the LRT project to make it chaotic; the rising population of the emirate, which is directly proportional to the numerous massive development projects being executed here, and which also translates into an increase in the number of cars on the road, is enough.

This despite the fact that the municipality, to increase travel demand during the past three decades, built nearly 10,000 lane-km with a total overall investment of $2.5 billion (Dh9.18 billion).

Giving details of Dubai’s plans for further expanding and enhancing its infrastructure, the civic body’s Deputy Director-General, Mattar Al Tayer, recently told an international conference that at present the municipality’s five-year future outlook includes $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion) for roads and bridges.

While officials might say that it is not possible or practicable to keep expanding the roads in the emirate, the fact remains that Dubai’s road network is under continuous expansion. And some of the proposed or under-construction projects could just help the emirate tackle the traffic problem; at least until the LRT is operational.

Numerous major projects costing $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion), including an eight-lane tunnel under the airport, a new 12-lane bridge across Dubai Creek, several major interchanges and a double-deck over one of Dubai’s major roads, are in the offing. Already under implementation is the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) that involves the use of a Dynamic Navigation System and Variable Sign Messages. Expected to be fully operational by December, the ITS will complement the existing automated traffic control centre which employs the latest available technology.

Interestingly Dubai’s road development will not cease even around the time the LRT becomes operational, as the municipality is expected to invest another $2 billion in major road projects from 2007 to 2010.

The civic body’s plans for road development takes into consideration the fact that a big chunk of the traffic in Dubai is a result of the high volume of inter-emirate commuters (motorists) who drive from and to Northern Emirates to Dubai everyday. The ongoing developments in the housing sector in Dubai are indicative of this understanding. While the civic body does not control the rental rates in the emirate, its Planning and Survey Department has been working to build quality low-cost housing in Al Quoz and Al Ghusais for expatriates, while also encouraging private investment in housing for low-income groups. Depending on the scale at which these measures will be implemented, the move can have a considerable impact on traffic.

The inter-emirate commuters are also being taken into consideration in the civic body’s road development projects. The Dh686 million road network project around the Dubai International Airport, including a 1.6 km-long tunnel, which is nearing completion, has in its plans seven smaller tunnels and a free-flow interchange that connects Al Rashidiya area with Al Ghusais (which has road connections to Sharjah).

The under-construction Al Khor Bridge, the fourth crossing between Deira and Bur Dubai, is part of a project to develop a new 15-kilometre elaborate corridor stretching from the First Interchange on Shaikh Zayed Road all the way to the airport tunnel. This essentially will divert a major percentage of the peak hour traffic (from Dubai to the Northern Emirates) from Shaikh Zayed Road and subsequently, Al Garhoud Bridge and Maktoum Bridge and other interior parts of Dubai.

Located 1.5km east of the Al Garhoud Bridge, the new bridge over the creek would have a total of 12 lanes, with six lanes dedicated to traffic on the expressway. A part of the new corridor, which starts at the First Interchange on Shaikh Zayed Road, will connect to the Al Khail Road (Back Road), while the another would continue ahead, linking with Oud Metha Road and the Zabeel (2) Road through an interchange. From the Interchange at Zabeel (2) Road, an offshoot of the network will connect with the existing interchange at the Al Qatayat Road. The main artery would connect to Al Jaddaf before crossing over Dubai Creek towards Al Rabat Road and finally joining with the Airport Tunnel via the Nadd Al Hamar Road.

The development is expected to ease traffic on the busy Shaikh Zayed Road, the other two crossings over the creek at Garhoud Bridge and Maktoum Bridge, the Shindagha Tunnel, and on other roads leading to the Northern Emirates. According to the civic body the new corridor would serve the projected increase in traffic volumes of Dubai till 2020.

Apart from development of road infrastructure, the civic body has been actively working to increase the share of its public transport system to ease traffic situation. The Public Transport Department has steadily widened its route coverage within Dubai and the strength of its bus fleet. After the successful launch of an affordable and comfortable inter-emirates Emirates Express bus service between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the department is finalising a proposal with its counterparts in Sharjah and other emirates for a similar bus service.

Water transport is another area where the department is focusing of late.

According to Abdul Aziz Malik, Director of Dubai Municipality’s Public Transport Department, a ferry service could be operational between Dubai and Sharjah by next year, and talks are on with Sharjah authority in this regard. Also on the anvil is a plan to launch abra services with routes that not only cross from Bur Dubai to Deira but also travel along the creek’s length.

According to figures available, more than 15 million people use the abras annually, which means nearly 40,000 passengers on a daily basis. This figure reaches up to 60,000 per day during peak days, particularly on Fridays. The figure is expected to rise to 19.4 million in the coming years, and to meet this demand new abra stations with floating pontoons are being constructed on both sides of the creek.

The proposed road toll for motorists for using some of Dubai’s busiest roads, even if it is unpopular with residents, is expected to help discourage ‘unnecessary’ trips and thus free up roads. Although the civic body is yet to name the highways that will be tolled, the main arteries that bring in a high volume of traffic from Northern Emirates into Dubai will definitely be in the list.

Stiffer fines for breaking traffic regulations, and prosecution for rash driving, and better policing of the road network especially during the peak hours will contribute in their own way to decongesting roads to a degree. But equally important is the awareness of a civilised and humane driving culture among motorists, the absence of which, irrespective of the quality of a road network both in terms connectivity and space, can and do create bottlenecks.

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