x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Roadworks rumble, stores grumble

Many say construction work on Al Ain's roads is running behind schedule and making it tough to work and shop.

A pedestrian makes his way through the barricades on Takheet street where work is being carried out by Al Ain municipality.
A pedestrian makes his way through the barricades on Takheet street where work is being carried out by Al Ain municipality.

AL AIN // Cars are snarled in chaotic traffic, keeping customers from businesses - and the ones that make it to their destination have nowhere to park. The cause, drivers and business owners say, are roadworks in the city centre that are running months behind schedule.

Projects under way include the removal of the Takhteet and Mandoos roundabouts, which are being replaced by light-controlled intersections. Work, which began on June 4, was to be completed by Saturday - but as of yesterday, engineers could still be seen breaking up the road surface. "There has been no construction going on for the past week," said Ahmad al Milly, 23, of Syria, the manager of Wahad Emirates Computers. "I was told that construction would be finished by the middle of this month but it's obvious that that's not going to happen for weeks more."

The municipality has used the car park in front of Mr al Milly's store and other businesses in the same row as a detour route, leaving only one metre of space for shoppers to walk past. "Since construction began, I have lost about 30 per cent of my business," Mr al Milly said. One shopkeeper, worried that those walking down the narrow path would hit their head on his window unit air-conditioner, fixed red-and-white warning tape to it along with some cloth padding.

Mohammed Jabar, 37, an Iraqi and part-owner of Al Saada Arts, said business was down 90 per cent. "When customers can't park, they go somewhere else," he said. "Since June, I have endured construction noise, dust, ground-shaking excavation and a major loss in revenue. To add insult to injury, municipality inspectors came by yesterday and warned me that I have to change the sign in front of my shop because it's looking a little old.

"They told me that if I don't change the sign within eight days, I will be fined Dh8,000 (US$2,200). How can I do that when there isn't enough space to put up a ladder? Should I close off the detour to change the sign? I will be fined for that too." Mr Jabar said the municipality should have taken on the project in stages rather than closing off all of Takhteet Street from Shakbout bin Sultan Street all the way to the Sinaiya District.

Pointing to a business two doors down from his shop, Mr Jabar said: "Look at Lourans Arts, the owner just up and left. He closed the store and said he won't be back until the construction ends." A drive up Shakbout bin Sultan Street to the Sinaiya yesterday, a journey of only about two kilometres, took 18 minutes and involved navigating through parking lots, around barricades, through narrow streets and over the pavement.

On Mohammed bin Khalifa Street, which has been affected for the past four months by several projects to widen parking areas that were supposed to only take 45 days, business owners say they have lost up to Dh160,000 in revenue. Abdulsalam Abdulrahman, 45, of India, a co-owner of Al Ekleel Trading Establishment, criticised the company the municipality hired to do the work, as he pointed to the broken and uneven pavement in front of the entrance to his store. "Look at this, four of my customers tripped and fell flat on their faces. One dignified Emirati customer in a khandoura was injured, so instead of coming in to buy, he left, maybe for the hospital."

The contractor, Al Fahjan, declined to comment under orders from the municipality. Abdulla al Ameri, the director of the internal roads and infrastructure department of the municipality, was also not available to comment. "I am all for advancement and change for the better," Mr Jabar said. "But my message to the municipality is 'don't take on more than you can handle'. It's better to have partial chaos for brief periods of time than total chaos for a long time. Instead of one big project going on, break the big project down into little projects."