ABU DHABI // After five years and more than Dh3 billion the 4.2-kilometre Salam Street tunnel finally opens to traffic at 6am today, with a new name and the promise of significantly easing traffic.
Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, national security adviser and vice chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, yesterday inaugurated the tunnel, which has been renamed the Sheikh Zayed Road and Tunnel by decree from the President, Sheikh Khalifa.
The grand opening will be the final step of the multi-phase Salam Street redevelopment project that began in 2007.
“This main tunnel was completed today in time for the inauguration,” said Abdullah Al Shamsi, executive director of infrastructure and municipal assets sector at the Abu Dhabi Municipality. “We expect the journey time between Sheikh Zayed Bridge to Mina Road or the Corniche and back to be 20 minutes.”
The tunnel stretches from Delma Street, at the Sea Palace junction, up to the Corniche and Mina Road. The covered section of the tunnel runs for 2.4km, while the open section covers 1.8km.
With four lanes and a hard shoulder down Salam Street, three lanes and a shoulder down Mina Road, and two lanes at the entrance and exit points of the tunnel to and from the Corniche, the roadway promises to cut through numerous traffic jams allowing motorists to drive from the Sheikh Zayed Bridge to the Mina area within 20 minutes at a maximum speed of 80 kph. The exit points to Mina and the Corniche have to be driven at 60 kph.
“There will be less waiting time and delays and a big reduction in gas emissions,” said Majed Al Kathiry, head of traffic services section at the municipality and head of the operations and maintenance team for the project.“It will segregate traffic and movement between the city centre and Salam Street.”
It will completely segregate local traffic or “surface traffic” and traffic crossing into the Mina area and Corniche and back. It will also reduce the environmental impact resulting from the surface traffic, officials said.
Traffic capacity on Salam Street is expected to double from 6,000 vehicles an hour.
“It’s a very big project and we’re proud that we’ve completed it,” Mr Al Kathiry said. “The entire 14km Salam project has the most advanced tunnel system in the Middle East.”
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The tunnel is the most expensive, and biggest, of the four-phase project. It costs Dh3.1 bn, while the entire redevelopment project cost Dh4.8bn, he said.
The main facilities include 24 service buildings, two control rooms and an additional room that is linked to the Abu Dhabi Centre for Traffic Management.
There are 157 CCTV cameras covering the entire tunnel; 174 video incident cameras that detect accidents, pedestrians and other incidents within 20 seconds; 408 speed control signs; 27 electronic information boards; nine traffic signals; and a system to access tunnel facilities.
Two cameras detect the height of a vehicle, alerting when a vehicle taller than the maximum allowable 5.5 metres enters. Lorries of more than 2.5 tonnes, and vehicles containing gas cylinders and other dangerous materials are banned from the tunnel, as are cyclists and pedestrians.
To ensure safety, there are 44 venting systems in the tunnel to prevent suffocation, ventilators at entrance and exit points, a fire detection and control system and a fire alarm system.
There are also 99 fire hoses every 60 metres, fire extinguishers, nine back-up power generators to supplement eight hours of electricity, an audio-public address system to direct drivers during an emergency, a sound system and telephones to contact the control room.
There are five emergency U-turns and 22 emergency exits.