ABU DHABI // With more people ditching the daily Dubai to Abu Dhabi commute, traffic on the E11 is expected to fall by about 40 per cent during peak hours in the short term.
The reduction follows a decree requiring all Abu Dhabi government employees to live in the emirate, which takes effect today.
The decree affects about 15,000 public-sector employees who make the daily commute between the cities. The average number of vehicles travelling daily on the E11 - southbound and northbound - is about 100,000. About 40 per cent are commuters.
"At least in the short term, we will be losing over half of the traffic volume during peak periods if we eliminate that many commuters," said Glenn Havinoviski, a transport expert in Abu Dhabi.
"The 10,000 commuters represent half of the current workforce who have made the daily commute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and this is about 20 per cent of all daily traffic."
Road-safety experts have no doubt that less traffic will result in less congestion in the short term.
"Once people make the move, at least two lanes worth of traffic on E11 probably will go away for a two-hour-long peak," Mr Havinoviski said. "That's about 4,000 vehicles an hour.
"If there's an accident, and two lanes are closed, you will still have queuing and bottlenecks. It won't be long, but you will still have it."
Brig Gen Hussain Al Harethi, head of Abu Dhabi traffic police, said the decree would reduce the number of accidents.
"In general, any traffic movement can lead to an accident, any accident would not only cost the family dearly, but also the Government," he said. "And on top of that, the environment suffers. This decree would lower the number of accidents and costs."
He said that along the main Dubai-Abu Dhabi road, most accidents happen between Seih Al Sedira andGhantoot, and at Al Raha Beach.
Abu Dhabi police said commuting to and from Abu Dhabi caused 157 accidents on the roads during the first half of this year, including 24 deaths and 33 serious injuries.
Col Khamaid Ishaq Mohammed, deputy director of Abu Dhabi traffic police, said many were found speeding "to reach work on time", which commonly led to reckless driving, running a red light, and breaking other traffic rules.
By reducing the volume of traffic, there should be a decline in road crashes, said Dr Abdulilah Zineddin, a road safety specialist.
However he warned it is not unusual to see an increase in accident frequency when traffic volumes fall.
"When there are fewer vehicles, people tend to speed more, which leads to more crashes," he said.
Mr Havinoviski said: "Speeding is certainly an issue now. An open road might invite more to speed, while the truck traffic will likely remain constant."
An increased disparity in travel speeds usually increases the accident risk, and this will be balanced with fewer tired drivers on the E11.
Dr Mouaiya Al Awad, director of social and economic research at Zayed University, said employees' productivity would increase with less time spent on the road.
"It will help families in that the commute will be less, they will spend more time with their families," he said.
In the long term most, if not all, traffic on the E11 will be back as more developments take place in the Dubai-Abu Dhabi corridor, Mr Havinoviski said.
Kizad, Khalifa Port, Jebel Ali and Dubai World Central developments will result in more traffic being generated as the economy expands over time.
First Lt Imran Abdullah Al Hammadi, of Dubai traffic police, said the effect of the decree might also be felt in Dubai.
Currently Dubai is affected by heavy traffic and a high number of deaths on external roads that connect the emirates.
Although reducing the number of commuters from Dubai to Abu Dhabi would not have a big impact, reducing the number of those commuting from Sharjah and other emirates to Abu Dhabi would. About a million non-Dubai vehicles enter the emirate daily, and a similar decree in Dubai would reduce heavy traffic, he said.
"The decree will not reverse the growth of traffic in Abu Dhabi on the E11 in the long term but it will surely benefit Abu Dhabi," Mr Havinoviski said.
"Off-peak traffic will be heavier because there will be more people. You'll have more people populate the businesses and stimulate the economy."