Site visit: Jahra Road Development Project

Kuwait's biggest road project uses many techniques for the first time

ANALYSIS, Site Visits, Projects

Engineer Yasser Abdullah Boudastour has plenty of experience of working on mega-projects, but didn't have much experience of working with bridges prior to working on the Jahra Road Development Project.

It is interesting, then that the first one he has worked on provides a formidable engineering challenge - the $942mn (KD264.8mn) has one of the largest elevated stretches of road currently under construction in the Middle East.

The Jahra Road Development project involves the creation of 17.7km of segmental viaducts – 7.3km of which is an elevated stretch of carriageway. There is also 2.4km of elevated link roads and 8km of ramps, with some intersections rising above ground level to a height of up to 27 metres. Added to this, there is an underground section of 0.62km, two roundabout bridges, 10 pedestrian bridges and a further 19.5km of roads at grade level - the bulk of which are service roads, but 3.4km of which is made up of the new highway. There are also five new interchanges being installed, while seven major roundabouts will replace traffic lights along the route.

The work basically increases the number of traffic lanes from two to 12 in each direction, creating a two-level motorway that separates local service traffic below from through traffic above.

This method was chosen as the only practical way of improving the capacity of the roads without any major widening works, which would not have been possible along much of the route due to the fact that it runs along a built-up area.

As a result, the contract team behind the project has also had to contend with a huge amount of utilities relocation.

In total, along the route of the 21km motorway, 33km of water lines have been relocated, alongside 8km of sewers, 3.5km of storm water box culverts, 12km of communication ducts and 51km of electrical cables.

The project also involves a number of new construction methods that had never been previously used in Kuwait. For instance, the project team is has uged huge landing gantries to make it easier to launch new road sections in between cantilever-balanced, precast support piers. It also set up the first dedicated precast yard to build the 8,440 segments that make up the road.

It is currently using two gantries on site, and is expecting the delivery of a third soon. These have been purpose-built for the project and are each 140m long, weighing 500 tons. They are capable of lifting segments of up to 120 tons.

Eng Boudastour points out that although much of the technologies are new to the country, they have been properly researched and the parties building the bridge have experience with them elsewhere.

Jahra Road has been designed by a joint venture between Louis Berger and PACE and is being built by Cairo-based Arab Contractors Company.

It was awarded the five-year contract to build the road in March 2010, and started work in September 2010.

Currently, 69% of the contracted time has elapsed and around 51.5% of the project has completed.

“So we are a little bit behind our schedule. But as you know this is a huge project involving so many ministries and utlities,” he said.

He said that the project was “one of the biggest in the Middle East” in terms of road schemes, alongside the $860mn Jamal Abdul Nasser running parallel to it. In both cases, elevated stretches of roads with more highways underneath were chosen largely due to space restrictions.

The roads are seen as a vital element in addressing chronic congestion and reducing accidents.

The project runs from the eponymous Jahra Road Roundabout through to the United Nations Roundabout.

Given that it runs through busy existing areas that contain ministries, universities, hospitals and links to the nearby port, there has also been a lot of consultation with affected parties, he adds, stating that it had worked with 21 different government ministries, hospitals and private sector firms on utilities relocation.

“We are doing great with the project right now,” he states. “There is a delay, but that is limited and there are so many options to speed up and try to mitigate. In a project like this, it is not that much.”

The precast yard, meanwhile, is currently operating almost around the clock, with two separate shifts managing to produce 13-17 segments per day at a 150,000m2 facility in the Doha area of the city.

The road is made up of pre-cast, pre-stressed segmental viaducts that are connected together to form the carriageways between piers.

Around 8,440 precast segments will be needed to complete the project, with 2,874 having been manufactured and 1,496 erected.

Added to this, 81% of the viaduct piles, 43% of trough piles, 68% of pile caps, 64% of pier stems and 26% of cross diaphragms have been completed.

Utilities work to date has seen 87% of the electricity cables, 66% of the telephone lines, 77% of water lines, 16% of the rain drainage lines and 34% of sewage lines finished.

Only a limited amount of precast sections can be stored on site and have to be delivered by low-loaders during the night to minimise traffic disruption.

Also, sections cannot be stored for too long outside, so there is a limit to how many can be fabricated in advance.

However, Eng Boudastour argues that the rate can soon be increased to 20-24 per day as soon as the third landing gantry arrives and all areas of the project are opened as it approaches peak activity.

The project has been developed in five phases, with phases one and two at opposite ends.

Phase one runs from Jahra Road to Airport Road, phase two from United Nations Roundabout to Hospital Road (Al Sabbah Medical District), phase three from Hospital Road to Al Ghazali Road, and phase four joining Al Ghazali Road to the end of phase one at Airport Road. Phase five contains a major intersection at Ghazali Road that will link to the Jamal Abdul Nasser Road project.

Boudastour explained that phase one was actually the last to be developed, as that is the closest to the city and one that involved the most complicated elements of utilities diversion.

“It would take a little bit of time. That’s why we started in the easier place at phase 2 to progress the work.

“Now, we have all of the phases in progress,” he said, explaining that substructures are being built in all areas, and that work on the superstructures will start within a month or so.

“The full project will be open at that time,” he added.

This will take the total number of staff involved with the project from its current level of around 3,600 up to around 4,500.

Currently, 1,200 people are split between two shifts at the precast yard and 100 engineers and 420 contracting staff are based at site offices, with the remaining 1,880 staff working on site.

The project was due to be completed within five years and handed over as one single element. However, Boudastour said that its aim currently is to try to finish some elements early – particularly some of the ramps and intersections that could improve connections with areas such as Airport Road so that congestion at pinch points can be cut.

“So within the coming few months we will have the first opening of two ramps and on the main line by the end of this year a whole phase (phase two) will be open.”

“It is quite an interesting project to manage all of these things – the existing traffic and how to work around it.

“For me, it’s a new experience and it’s adding value. I’ve learned a lot from this project and I will keep learning,” he said.

“I’m really enjoying my time.”

According to him, the successful completion of Jahra Road will “definitely have a major impact on Kuwait on a developmental level, and will affect positive change in many areas but especially in helping to reduce the current traffic congestion crisis facing the country”.

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