ABU DHABI // A new builder has taken over the last leg of construction on the daunting Sheikh Zayed Bridge project, connecting Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland, which is now four years overdue. Six Construct, a subsidiary of Belgium's Besix Group, revealed this week that it recently assumed control of the main works on the engineering marvel. Projected by Abu Dhabi Municipality to cost Dh1billion (US$272million), it was dubbed by its engineers at High Point-Rendel as "the most difficult bridge ever built".
Six Construct replaces the Greek company Archirodon Construction on the project and now forecasts that it will be open for traffic by this autumn and finished by July 2011. "We are taking it over as the general contractor for that project," Bart Wuyts, the communications manager for Six Construct in Brussels, confirmed this week. "The bridge was already under construction for five or six years, and I think there was some difficulties with the previous contractor, so the client decided to have Six Co finish it."
A manager for Archirodon on the site yesterday confirmed the company was off the project, but said he was not authorised to give more details. Archirodon was awarded the original Dh635m contract in 2003. The 2006 completion date for the structure, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, was later moved to 2009. Bruno Mendiaux, the project manager at Six Construct, said yesterday that the bridge was expected to open to traffic in October. "The exact date is still with the municipality," he said.
Abu Dhabi Municipality, which owns the project, would not comment this week on the delays or the late-stage change in contractors. In an e-mail, the municipality said the project was 87 per cent finished and "in the final completion stage". Six Construct's website states that the construction period for Contract No 3 for Sheikh Zayed Bridge will end in the summer of 2011. The company lists its portion of the project as costing ?49,192,200 (Dh239m).
The company is also building the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company headquarters, which at 340 metres will be the tallest building on the Corniche; the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi; and a new VIP terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The Sheikh Zayed Bridge was one of several infrastructure projects on display last week at the capital's Cityscape property expo. Its curved steel arches were inspired by undulating sand dunes. Water crafts will be able to pass under the two four-lane carriageways, which at the bridge's centre spans to 234 metres.
Once complete, it will provide sweeping views of the capital and serve as another connector across the Maqta canal, easing congestion on the other existing canal crossings, Al Maqta Bridge and the Mussafah Bridge. "It is projected to save about 15 minutes off journey times into and out of the city," a municipality representative said in an e-mail this week. The most challenging part of the construction was the engineering, said the representative, "since it was desired to have a landmark structure out of an architecturally unique bridge".
Abdullah al Shamsi, the director of roads and infrastructure at the municipality, said the idea was to create an elegant and iconic bridge for the capital that would be "instantly recognisable", such as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Although it would not say when the bridge would be completed, the municipality promised it would be worth the wait. "It will tell how Abu Dhabi's economy is strong and stable. It shows the quality of life. The city of achievements."