Building bridges

Bridges add character to a city's landscape and give it an identity. And with its frenzied rate of commissioning and completing bridges, Dubai might one day inherit the title, City of Bridges, from Pittsburgh.

ANALYSIS, Business

Bridges add character to a city's landscape and give it an identity. And with its frenzied rate of commissioning and completing bridges, Dubai might one day inherit the title, City of Bridges, from Pittsburgh.

Bridges frame a skyline and become focal points without which a city looks incomplete - imagine New York City without the iconic Brooklyn Bridge or Sydney minus the stunning Harbour Bridge.

Bridges in the UAE are veering in the same direction and once complete are poised to add character to the country's landscape and a distinct identity in the years to come.

The basic component that goes into the construction of a bridge is steel. Since bridges first began making use of steel in the 19th century, their development has been closely linked to advances in the material's properties and production methods.

In particular, the requirements of bridge building were one of the factors that drove research work to develop better steel grades through the improvement of the production process.

Falko Schröter is the marketing manager for Dillinger Hütte GTS and says that during the last decade, the new TM (thermomechanical) steel grades are being used for the construction of a number of bridges throughout the world, such as the Normandy Bridge in France, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam and the Øresund Crossing between Sweden and Denmark.

"Compared to traditional grades, thermomechanical steel grades offer greatly improved toughness, excellent ductility which means a higher material strength for impact and seismic loading. Recent investigations based on fracture mechanics have resulted in practical tools for the selection of the grade which fits the particular design condition. Increased toughness in the new grades enables much thicker products to be safely used for bridge structures," Schröter says.


Safety during the construction of bridges is extremely important and this fact recently hit home with the collapse of the bridge under construction on Interchange 1 on Sheikh Zayed Road earlier this month.

"The only way to prevent accidents on the worksite is to properly train the workers and staff responsible for a project. We have set up a training centre for our labour and staff in Bangkok, Thailand, and are in the process of setting up a similar centre in Dubai. Setting up the centre is still under development, and though it is not fully operational yet, we do ensure safety training for our staff," says Alain Rossetto, general manager of VSL
Middle East.

The element of human error is responsible for a majority of the construction-related accidents and it is virtually impossible to eliminate those.

"Prevention is the only key to avoid accidents. Complete elimination of human error which can avert subsequent accidents is virtually impossible," says Rossetto.

VSL Middle East was not involved in any of the recent accidents. The company is currently handling about 70 projects in the UAE, including the Shahama bridge in Abu Dhabi; connection bridges between the Yas and Saadiyat islands; the bridges in the Dubai Metro project; Interchange 5.5 on Sheikh Zayed Road and the Ras Al Khor crossing contract 6, which is being built opposite the under-construction Dubai mall.

"We have a number of projects involving bridges coming our way," says Rossetto.

"We are very upbeat about the UAE market and are gearing up to meet the demand. The best example of the advancement in bridge-building technology is reflected in the fact that this month on the Metro project we are building 1km of bridge per week, which is a mammoth task. And this is being done with minimum impact and disruption to traffic."


The floating bridge on Dubai Creek was an innovation that had Dubai talking for weeks. Waagner was the main contractor behind the floating bridge project with Clement Systems Gulf serving as the sub-contractor.

"Floating bridges are ideal for the Arabian Gulf area where long waves are rare. The technology used for the floating bridge structure is the first of its kind in the Gulf area, and scores on counts of the speed at which it can be executed, its cost effectiveness, its environmentally-friendly nature and the fact that it can be easily dismantled and reused and is suited for the current fast track waterfront projects in the UAE," says Nawar Farra, contract manager, Clement Systems Gulf.

Bridge-building technology has come a long way and bridges in Dubai are using the best resources the world has to offer. The frenzied rate at which bridges are being commissioned and completed, Dubai might just inherit the title of the "City of Bridges" from Pittsburgh.

Bridges under construction in the UAE

The world's longest arch bridge is slated to stretch over the Dubai Creek by 2012. Called the Sixth Crossing, the bridge will connect the new residential and commercial real estate projects in the city. The total cost of the project is around AED 3 billion.

The bridge will be 1.6-km long, 64m wide and 15m above the water level. It will have 12 lanes and track for the Green Line of Dubai Metro. It will have a capacity of around 20,000 vehicles per hour.


The Sixth Crossing will link Al Jaddaf and Business Bay at Bur Dubai with the road separating 'The Lagoons' and Dubai Festival City. It will also provide entry and exit points for the Creek Island.

Due for completion by the end of 2009, the Saadiyat bridge is set to become one of the world's great non-suspension bridges, with a mid span of approximately 200 metres and will connect Saadiyat Island with Abu Dhabi city from the Mina Zayed main port area creating a five-minute drive access between the two.

Saadiyat Bridge, which has been designed as a concrete box girder carrying five lanes of traffic in each direction as well as two future passenger rail system tracks, is being built using balanced cantilever, cast-in place and incremental launch methodologies.

It will eventually link into the 6.5km Saadiyat Link road, also under construction, connecting Abu Dhabi's Shahama district to Saadiyat Island.

When complete, these two major developments will result in a 15-minute fast-track access from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Saadiyat Island. Saadiyat Link is due for completion in September next year with five lanes in each direction.

The project is being carried out by TDIC-Leighton Contracting LLC - a strategic joint venture between TDIC and Gulf Leighton, one of the GCC's largest multi-discipline contractors and a subsidiary of Australian contracting giant Leighton International.

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