Abu Dhabi // The first of four new junctions on the motorway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is due to open early next year, providing a much-needed link to Khalifa City, according to the principal developer. "We'll be complete in August," said Dafydd Evans, the project leader for the development with Aldar Laing O'Rourke, "but when they open is a function of the relevant asset owner, which is the Department of Transport."
The news was welcomed yesterday by residents of Khalifa City, who have complained about the difficulty in reaching Al Raha Mall, which is on the other side of the motorway from where they live. At present, getting to the mall means a long drive for Khalifa City motorists. They either have to drive to a bridge in Bahia, more than 10km from the mall, or to a tunnel at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, about 5km in the other direction.
"This short cut, it is good for us," said Khaled al Katheri, 24. He said that during rush hours, it could take him 30 minutes to get back to the mall. May Kenich, 47, lives in a villa in Al Raha Gardens, where she has a clear view of the mall. "Now I have to go 20, 25 minutes to reach there," she said. "This is not fair because from my balcony I can see it." Work on the junctions to link the developments on either side to the motorway started in early 2007, and for months the road had been reduced to as little as two lanes.
Repeated changes were made to the road layout as engineers built the major junctions linking it to the Al Raha Beach Project, where 120,000 people will eventually live. The work had caused lengthy tailbacks during rush hours. At one bottleneck where the road went from four lanes to three there had been a number of crashes, drivers said, despite signs warning drivers to reduce their speed. The first junction to open early next year will provide access to Al Raha Beach's Al Bandar district, the first residential area to be completed in the development, said Talal al Dhiyebi, the director of planning and infrastructure at Aldar.
It and another bridge linking Al Raha Gardens with Al Raha Beach will feature pedestrian walkways. "People will be able to walk across," said Mr al Dhiyebi. "There will be a pedestrian sidewalk right from the interchange as it goes up, right to the other side, it is completely protected." He said Aldar had been co-ordinating with Abu Dhabi Municipality, which was planning to build a walkway connecting directly to the mall.
Regular commuters between Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been relieved to see the end of the diversions. Ahmed Ibrahim, 28, a resident of Jumeirah Lake Towers in Dubai, said he had seen two school buses collide at a point where the highway went from four lanes to two. "There were a few accidents in that area and of course there were people who tried to overtake," he said. The road is also notorious for labourers working on the Khalifa City side dashing across eight lanes of traffic to reach the mall.
Two weeks ago, all four lanes were once again made available to drivers. Aldar, developer of Al Raha Beach building the junctions, said it would complete them next month. They will open as residents move into the new development next year, Mr Evans said. Three other junctions will be built to the western end of Al Raha Mall and Al Raha Beach Hotel. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org