Saudi Arabia needs major road surface rethink

Expert says design life of roads in the Kingdom is seriously compromised by heavy industrial traffic and high temperatures

Saudi roads get a pounding from both the weather and heavy equipment. Image: Getty.
Saudi roads get a pounding from both the weather and heavy equipment. Image: Getty.

An expert in road surfacing from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals has said that Saudi Arabia’s road infrastructure is struggling to cope with heavy traffic and taxing climatic conditions.

Hamad bin Ibrahim Al-Abdulwahab says, “Despite the generous spending in infrastructure, particularly on roads and bridges, there is poor implementation due to the existence of untrained labor, unqualified engineers, low supervision, lack of engineers, and no practical experience in government agencies.”

In an interview with Saudi newspaper Arab News, Al-Abdulwahab said that high quality asphalt was needed to good road surfaces, but that wasn’t enough. Road surface construction must also be formulated to meet performance standards in both load expectations and climate conditions.

“It should be rut-resistant at high temperatures, stress and crack-resistant and should also be resistant to damage due to low temperatures in the winter,” he said.

Al-Abdulwahab said that asphalt produced by Saudi Aramco was suitable for road temperatures of up to 64 degrees Celcius, but regions of the country – like the Eastern Province – regularly hits 72 degrees Celsius in summer months. Coupled with heavy traffic pouring into the region’s industrial cities, the road inevitably wear out well before their expected lifespan.

Al-Abdulwahab said that the Landbridge rail connection between Riyadh and Makkah will help by removing heavy trucks transporting limestone from quarries in the west of Riyadh to the east of the Kingdom. But the road would also need to be repaired and brought up to standard.

“The roads industry needs technical support through the creation of sophisticated laboratories and qualified engineers who are able to implement Total Quality Management (TQM) programs,” Al-Abdulwahab he said.


He noted that heavy trucks ply EP roads which serve industrial cities.
“Limestone crumbles under heavy loads and has high water absorption levels so it must be used with extreme caution on main roads and highways,” he said adding that the company which implemented the Jubail Industrial City infrastructure has imported high quality limestone from the United Arab Emirate.


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