Taisei doubles up

Japanese contractor is working in double-quick time to complete Dubai's Arabian Ranches interchange.

ANALYSIS, Projects

While Salik may have alleviated congestion in some parts of Dubai, the fact remains that traffic levels continue to rise inexorably as the city continues to expand, both geographically and numerically. The ability to manage these levels has resulted in a swathe of key road construction projects being undertaken to link various sections of Dubai, modernise its infrastructure and eliminate congestion of traditional routes.

One of the busiest junctions in the emirate is the Arabian Ranches interchange. Located on Emirates Road at the corner of Dubailand, Dubai Autodrome and Arabian Ranches, the junction will become more strategic in the future as the surrounding projects reach maturity. Currently under construction through Japanese contractor Taisei, the interchange, when completed will be one of the largest ever constructed in the Dubai.

Costing an estimated US $111 million (AED409 million), the project began in June 2006, with an projected completion date of June 2008. It also includes the expansion of the Umm Suqeim Road, which links the Sheikh Zayed, Al Khail and Emirates Roads - it will be expanded from the existing four to eight lanes. Al Qudra Road, another important link in the road network area, will also be expanded from two to four lanes in each direction. The work will also expand the road to a length of 5km in the direction of the Dubai Bypass.

Originally conceived with 13 bridges, the design has been altered to incorporate 11 bridges, with the remaining two lanes to become an underpass through a cut and cover tunnel. Of the 11 bridges planned, 10 are currently under construction, with design negotiations currently underway to connect the remaining interchange to Dubai Autodrome. Toshio Goto, project manager, Taisei Corporation explains that he only recently met with the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) to finalise the details for the last bridge.

Taisei's role in the project has undergone significant timescale challenges. While the original plan saw the project split up the 10 bridges into sets of five, due to delays in the work, the team was forced to undertake all 10 bridges consecutively, which not only challenged Taisei, but also placed significant strain upon RMD Kwikform, which found itself having to supply material for 10 bridges within a six-month window.

According to Goto, progress was initially slow due to the quality of formwork, which was consequently rejected on numerous occasions by Parsons, which is the consultant on the project. This stemmed, he adds, from a team of Pakistani labourers brought in by Taisei who were unfamiliar with UAE specifications.

"The first five bridges should have been finished last month, so that is why we hired another five bridges worth of material - we need to complete these bridges before the end of January 2008," says Goto.

"This is a very fast project for the RTA. We have experience in Abu Dhabi and on the Palm Jumeirah, but the client for the Palm was Nakheel, which is in the private sector, whereas the RTA is a public body. Therefore, quality control and safety regulations are much stricter."


Darren Ellwood, UAE sales manager, RMD Kwikform, explains further: "Initially we provided [equipment] on a sale basis with the intention of the material for the first five bridges being re-used on the remaining five. [But] what transpired was, due to a reduced timescale, Taisei ended up purchasing five and renting five."

This has obviously accentuated the demand placed on RMD Kwikform by Taisei. "Certainly, when the project requirement doubles very quickly, we have to work very hard. And some of the components are ‘specials', which we have to manufacture," says Ellwood. In particular, this refers to the cantilever, which has to form the profile of the side of the bridge, which differs throughout Dubai.

One consequence of having to build all 10 bridges at the same time was that Taisei suffered financially, as it could not re-use the original equipment for the first five bridges on the second five as planned, leading to significantly greater costs.

RMD Kwikform is working closely with Taisei to provide the formwork and falsework for the project. Each structure varies from four to five spans long, and each span is some 40m, giving a total bridge length of between 150-240m. The structures are a 2,000mm deep box cell and are between three and five cells wide for the main carriageway and there is a 1,700mm cantilever walkway on either side.

Due to the nature of the interchange most of the structures are curved in plan, thus the company departed from conventional Birdcage falsework solution and used heavy duty 80KN Rapidshor falsework support system, designed as 1,800mm wide by 2,400mm bay towers. Each tower has six to eight bays. This solution dealt with the varying radii of structures on the project and allowed for an economical solution for the client. Furthermore, the cantilever footways on the structures were standardised for all the varying superelevations which enabled RMD Kwikform to design a solution that could be pre-assembled prior to erection on site.

Doubling the workload to meet the specified deadline isn't the only concern for Taisei. By its very nature, carrying out work on the Arabian Ranches interchange - a notoriously busy junction, comes with it, inherent difficulties, notably trying to alleviate congestion, while at the same time avoiding creating anymore. Goto explains that Taisei's plan to construct a larger roundabout (a new 2.4km roundabout was constructed around the existing one) to free up the space was initially treated with suspicion by the relevant public bodies. However, he explains this has been successful and in fact, has improved traffic flow around the interchange, even while work continues.

"In the beginning we had trouble getting approval for this diversion, because the existing Arabian Ranches roundabout had a big traffic jam and the police and road authority didn't want to make more. But to manage the traffic flow, we made a big diversion and installed signals, which has made it much better. Before the project there was no signal, and it was difficult to get around."

Ras Al Khor crossing
  •  Taisei is also involved with the construction of another major interchange project in Dubai, The Ras Al-Khor crossing project, aimed at reducing congestion between Deira and Sheikh Zayed Road.
 
  •  Italy's Salini Costruttori has been awarded the $169 million contract for phase six of the project, which covers the upgrade of interchange one - otherwise known as Defence Roundabout, and involves the construction of 700,000m2 of bridges, including the continuation of the double-decking of Doha road, across Sheikh Zayed Road towards Al Wasl Road. Two of the bridges that cross Sheikh Zayed Road must be completed within 16 months, with the entire contract due to take 30 months.
 
  • Taisei is responsible for connecting up the Doha Road towards the Dubai Mall. This will involve double-decking on both sides of the road.

 

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