CW 2015 UAE Infra Conf: Future Flow

The UAE is seeking viable ways to improving roads infrastructure as its population grows

Al Shimmari believes the Expo site could provide an opportunity to help redevelop Dubai's historic core.
Al Shimmari believes the Expo site could provide an opportunity to help redevelop Dubai's historic core.

The UAE’s Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) intends to launch a study this year looking into a reversible lanes concept on federal highways in a bid to ease traffic congestion.

Eng. Anwaar Al Shimmari, the MoPW’s director of projects in its planning department, said it is in the process of devising a remit for a consultant to undertake the feasibility study.

Al Shimmari said the contraflow lanes idea is part of a wider plan on the next stage of development of the UAE’s primary and secondary routes.

“What we are saying here is that the primary and secondary routes are very important and we need to consider upgrading them, either by eliminating roundabouts to put traffic signals in or to remove traffic signals to create highways,” she said during a keynote presentation on the UAE’s infrastructure needs beyond Expo 2020.

“It’s really important to consider the connectivity of these routes over the next few years, as well as developing new routes,” she added.

The UAE needs about 10 extra lanes linking between the Northern Emirates and Abu Dhabi and Dubai to cope with current traffic flows, she explained.

Some of this extra capacity could be achieved by building new roads, and Al Shimmari revealed that the MoPW has plans in place for a new link between the Northern Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, she cautioned: “We haven’t finalised this yet because it’s between all of the Emirates and this would require more of a federal/political decision.”

But on the reversible lanes concept, she said it could be an alternative to building roads as it requires no additional land.

“If we are talking about current traffic, then we need about 10 extra lanes. But this means losing land to create more highways and roads, which is not feasible as we cannot just keep building more roads and highways. And this can’t happen without having a strong public transit system,” she said.

“We don’t want to say the solution is only to provide public transit, because it’s not enough, and we don’t want to say the solution is to create new lanes, because this is not feasible. Yes, we will introduce new lanes in the future, but for the current situation we need to consider utilising the existing infrastructure.

“We have been thinking of the idea of creating something that already exists in some of the United States cites – the reversible lane. We will be appointing a consultant to study the feasibility of the idea. Either by utilising the existing infrastructure or by introducing a super structure – like continuous bridges – within the existing right of way.”

Al Shimmari pointed to a slide which showed that infrastructure construction costs for MoPW projects had shot up by 20% in the last five months, saying there was “no solid reason” for this rise, but that it could have an impact on projects.

“It’s important to consider that the higher the price, the less projects will be delivered, especially in infrastructure because the cost of infrastructure is really high,” she said.

“So there’s an increase, for example, in housing projects. The normal housing cost is AED220 per m2, while housing projects through the MoPW have reached AED350, which is much bigger. We are now considering methods to reduce this, because it’s a huge cost.”

Al Shimmari said the construction industry must take heed of UAE Vision 2021, launched by UAE vice-president and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the start of the year. This aims to make the UAE among the world’s best countries by the time the Golden Jubilee of the Union celebrations are due to take place.

“I feel that consultants and the contractors are not familiar with the nation’s agenda – Vision 2021. We are talking about being united in the four points – United in Responsibility, United in Destiny, United in Knowledge, United in Prosperity. The Expo 2020 will be an event supporting UAE Vision 2021.”

A personal view of hers would be to see Dubai’s old central business district (CBD) in Deira revitalised and she feels Expo 2020 could be a catalyst for this to happen.

“What will happen after Expo? From my point of view we need to develop the old Dubai, especially given that it’s really condensed traffic-wise, infrastructure-wise – you cannot really reach it.

“It has its own flavour and history but let’s consider rehabilitating the old CBD. Since Dubai is already investing on infrastructure in the Expo area, maybe the current CBD businesses could be relocated and we can work on rehabilitating the old CBD into a viable hub.”

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