x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Big plans feature tiny footprints

Upcoming transport projects in the capital will create fewer disruptions than were caused by the Salam Street tunnel work, the Government says.

Roadworks on Salam Street in Abu Dhabi.
Roadworks on Salam Street in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // Upcoming transport projects in the capital will create fewer disruptions than were caused by the Salam Street tunnel work, the Government has said. Abu Dhabi is preparing to break ground in the next two to three years on a number of multibillion-dirham initiatives in its overhaul of the transport system, including a 340km tram network and up to 130km of Metro lines. The eventual goal is to encourage up to 40 per cent of commuters to use public transit during rush hour.

But unlike the Salam Street work, which has clogged roads in the central business district and reportedly caused trade to fall by a third for some businesses, the new projects will use less-invasive techniques. On Salam Street, construction crews began building an eight-lane tunnel this year using a "cut-and-cover" technique, in which the tunnel is dug from surface level. The Metro, scheduled to open in 2016, will also be mostly underground.

The tunnelling will use a boring machine and remove a large amount of earth at the ends of the tunnels, leaving the surface streets intact, said Dr Alan Perkins, the senior planning manager of transport, infrastructure and environment at the Urban Planning Council (UPC). "The development of the stations will witness more activity, although many of these will be constructed as part of new developments in the Capital District, Masdar, Yas Island and Saadiyat Island," he said.

The city's tram service, set to open in 2014, will be at surface level, but the lines will mostly be built atop the central strip down dual carriageways. "Tram tracks will have some impact, such as closing of some traffic lanes, but should not involve the closing of whole sections of existing streets in the city, thereby having a minimal effect," he said. The rail projects are part of a new emphasis by the Government on reducing dependence on the automobile, said Colin Hill, technical director of Otak International, a consultant for the UPC.

"The focus is not on moving cars as quickly as possible; it's about moving people as efficiently as possible," he said. igale@thenational.ae