ABU DHABI // Surface roads from the fourth and final phase of Al Salam Street will open next month, municipality officials say.
But utility and electrical works, traffic signals, parking areas and pavement markings on those roads must still be completed.
The Dh5billion project, which started in October 2007, was originally due to be finished last October. Officials attributed the delays to the project to its size, diverse components and high-density location.
Once the project is complete, Al Salam Street will have four lanes in each direction, doubling its capacity to an estimated 12,000 vehicles an hour.
Motorists will be able to travel without stopping at traffic signals from Sheikh Zayed Bridge to Mina Zayed on the first expressway in the city.
The project, which includes five tunnels and a major bridge, was split into four contracts of which three are complete.
Those three included the section from the Sheikh Zayed Bridge to the intersection with Al Saada Street and were completed at the end of last year.
Work on widening the section of road between 29 Street and 19 Street was finished in July last year.
The final phase, which has most affected residents and local businesses, comprises the road leading from Hazza bin Zayed Street to the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank on Mina Road.
Surface roads will be open in July, municipality officials said, but the 3.6km tunnel in the Tourist Club Area will be open by the end of the year. Municipality officials said retailers in the area would not be compensated for any losses they have incurred during construction, but those businesses are eagerly anticipating the end of four years of disruption.
Haneef KM, a salesman at Flower Council on Al Salam Street, said his monthly revenue had dropped by Dh20,000. But Mr Haneef was optimistic business would return to normal when the roads open.
"It's been a very difficult year," he said. "We've been here for eight years and didn't experience something like this before."
Vari Jakshan, a salesman at Al Hajeb Electric Establishment, said the construction had discouraged customers. "People see the mess and there's nowhere to park so they don't come," Mr Jakshan said. "Traffic is diverted to other directions, so it's hard for them to find us."
But he is pleased his store will soon be in a prime location. "I'm sure things will progress later. It's just a matter of time."
The municipality has said tunnels and separate intersections will be set up to ease traffic congestion in what they consider to be a critical area that connects the residential parts of the city with the commercial districts.
The tunnels will have safety facilities such as firefighting equipment, closed-circuit television and lightning systems for emergencies.
Pedestrian walkways will lead to emergency staircases and emergency telephones are being installed. More than 4,300 workers are estimated to have worked on the project.
A survey conducted by the municipality at the end of last year found 70 per cent of Abu Dhabi residents believe the project "will have a very positive impact on the image of Abu Dhabi, city life and economy".
Sixty-two per cent said the redevelopment was "causing inconvenience" by increasing travel time.
* With additional reporting by Jen Thomas