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Making ends meet

by Ben Roberts on Nov 22, 2010

Construction of Saadiyat Bridge, which featured Doka's formwork.
Construction of Saadiyat Bridge, which featured Doka's formwork.

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The GCC has seen a flurry of activity in the bridges sector. News of projects nearing completion have quickly been replaced by a new set of tenders launched for the next set of projects, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading the ongoing work in both urban and rural environments as well as those spanning water.

Bridges have become a vital part of the ongoing infrastructure development of cities such as Abu Dhabi, based on the need to diversify traffic and provide neat solutions in increasingly dense building landscapes.

Often the urban environment presents significant challenges to consultants and contractors – not least because the city must continue to function during the building process.

A prime example of this occurred in the construction of the AED830 million Mafraq Bridge in Abu Dhabi, which was opened this month. Coordinated by the Municipality of Abu Dhabi City, the 27-lane two-way structure aims to improve the efficiency of the existing bridge and enhance traffic flow.

The Municipality had previously intended the phased opening of the completed parts, encompassing three bridges: a 75-metre, four-lane main bridge that has a shoulder in the direction of Dubai – Al Silaa; two bridges that will serve the traffic from Abu Dhabi towards Al Shahama; and a bridge from Al Ain towards Al Silaa.

Steve Drake, projects director for Al Jaber Transport and General Contracting, said work on the project represented a “massive footprint” on the surroundings that required a lot of careful planning.

“The problem is when the environment has existing utilities and integrating it with the surrounding area,” he says.

“This is a challenge away from the technical aspects. Also, the project incorporated the demolition of the existing structure as well as dealing with the traffic.

“One thing that we did to make it easier was to change the original idea. To begin with, there was going to be a staggered opening where the use of the bridge would be phased in. We realised we couldn’t do this in parts, so we decided to take the traffic out of the critical part and create massive detours around the interchange. So in the early planning
we came up with an alternative and it meant we could take the criticality away for the drivers.”

The company had to correspond with all related authorities concerning moving the underground pipelines that flow into the city, over which the work will be carried out.

“When you get a project you need to approach all the authorities and say ‘I’m about to start a job – tell us where you have a problem’. And they might say that they have a pipeline and ask us to explain how this will be relocated. We work with the information and come up with a solution and say ‘this is how we’re going to do it’.”