ABU DHABI // A two-kilometre stretch of Salam Street will open to traffic today, though it will be several months before the Dh5 billion project is finally complete.
"From 2007, a lot of things have changed," Ahmed Al Sayari, the municipality's head of road construction, observed during a tour of the project.
He was referring to the start of the long-awaited - and twice-delayed - redevelopment back in October 2007.
The project was initially expected to end in October 2010, but the completion date was pushed forward to July and again to next year.
Mr Al Sayari said the project is 88 per cent complete and should be completely ready by the first quarter of 2012.
Today, five new junctions will be opened to traffic, and more than 700 parking spaces will become available on the newly opened stretch from Hamdan Street to Al Falah Street.
The speed limit will be 60 kph.
The new section will feature state-of-the-art pedestrian and street lighting systems. The signals also use technology that reduces power consumption and maintenance.
Three of the project's four stages have been completed; today's unveiling is the first part of the final stage. Another 1.6 kilometres of surface road is still under construction, and work on the underground tunnels is ongoing, officials said yesterday.
The fourth and final stage is the most expensive. Surface road works, which include construction along two branches that will run from Hamdan Street and divert to Mina Zayed and the Corniche, should be completed by the end of the year.
Construction on the 3.1-kilometre tunnel will be the last piece of the puzzle. The tunnel still needs to be connected to a smaller tunnel that runs under Defence Road, Mr Al Sayari said.
When completed, vehicles will be able to use the tunnel to travel from Sheikh Zayed Bridge to Mina Zayed without stopping at traffic lights.
Heavy lorries will be banned from travelling on the surface roads and will be able to travel from the port to Musaffah without stopping.
The tunnels will have safety facilities such as firefighting equipment, closed-circuit television and lighting 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.
The project's delay has been linked to "dense underground utilities networks" and the high volume of traffic.
"The project started totally from scratch," said Mohammed Shoqfa, the senior project manager for the Salam Street redevelopment. "The biggest holdup was definitely because of the utility works."
Most recent traffic counts show inbound traffic is approximately 7,000 vehicles during morning hours and outbound traffic is about 5,600 vehicles, more than double the road's usage before construction began. The municipality estimates about 126,000 vehicles will use the road each weekday.
Once the project is complete, Salam Street will have four lanes in each direction, doubling its capacity to an estimated 12,000 vehicles an hour.