ABU DHABI // Tunnel and infrastructure works around Baynounah Street costing Dh800 million will be finished by the end of the year to meet the demand caused by thousands of new residents.
The works are 60 per cent complete on a project that includes two tunnels, Baynounah Street, its connecting roads and extensive landscaping. Each phase will open as it is completed.
Capacity on the roads will increase to 3,000 vehicles per hour - three times the current rate - for upcoming developments that include presidential palaces, hotels and commercial and residential developments in Al Bateen marina area.
Residents are making do amid the construction chaos.
Ebrahim Al Shehhi, 46, said the works would not keep him from enjoying tea at Etihad Towers.
"This is a very nice area and when this work is finished, many people will come here," he said. "We hope they will finish this work very fast, inshallah.
"When I have a business meeting I come here. When I meet friends I come here. For me, it is everything."
Traffic in the area has already increased from 600 to 1,000 vehicles per hour and it is expected to reach full capacity in five to 10 years.
The 540-metre Ras Al Akhdar tunnel will serve traffic from the Corniche U-turn to Etihad Towers, which has 884 apartments in three residential towers, office space, the 382-room Jumeirah hotel and a mall, which is scheduled to open at the end of April. Construction on the tunnel is complete.
"It's not that difficult to get here but they should have planned the tunnels ahead of time," said Masood Al Mazrooei, a businessman from Dubai. "The roads should open before the projects.
"Those who go to Emirates Palace can still get there but it takes patience."
The 700m Baynounah tunnel, at the intersection of Baynounah and Sultan bin Zayed streets, will discharge traffic from Baynounah to outside the island. It is 70 per cent complete.
Both tunnels, which are one-way with lanes, were scheduled for completion late last year but the project was expanded to include waterworks, electricity, sewage and storm drainage.
Officials postponed some of the work to allow for the completion of other construction projects in the area.
That strategy "will avoid future construction work in the area", said Adel Ali, the project manager. "Work is progressing very fast. If you drive on a street on a day-to-day basis you feel the change."
More than 2,800 construction workers from 10 countries are employed on the site, just two metres from the gates of Emirates Palace.
The widening of Baynounah Street is complete and parts are already in use.
The area will be one of the first in the city to have bus and cycling lanes plus a pedestrian-friendly design, so residents can leave their cars and start walking.
Access lanes have been minimised and four roundabouts will be replaced by junctions with signals to increase road safety and decrease congestion. A five-leg junction will become a four-point intersection.
Pedestrian crossings at new intersections will make the walk from the Corniche to Emirates Palace safer and more enjoyable, with Dh100m budgeted for walkways landscaped with fountains and foliage that does not obscure views.
There will also be a park along Zayed the First Street.
"We have to make our roads more friendly to walkers," Mr Ali said. "It takes a lot of time to get people to start walking but if you give them a good environment, people will enjoy it."
The new style of street decorations being installed, including light fixtures and kerbstones, may become a trademark look of Abu Dhabi.
"There is more space in that area for people to walk and enjoy the area," Mr Ali said. "There are areas for people to sit, relax and enjoy and playgrounds for children. The main purpose is to encourage the public to use more efficient and reliable transport, so it will give priority for the buses to move freely, on time and faster than other lanes."
For those who remain devoted to driving, there will be between 70 and 100 parking spaces and an intelligent traffic system that monitors volume to reduce congestion.
There will be Mawaqif parking on Sultan bin Zayed the First Street opposite the InterContinental hotel.
The new road will have a speed limit of 80 kph and the tunnels will have speed restrictions of 40 kph.