x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dismay over delay at Defence Roundabout

Completion delays to roadworks on Interchange One leave Dubai motorists navigating through a mess of signage and shifting lanes.

Sheikh Zayed road at the defence roundabout in Dubai, stock photo.
Sheikh Zayed road at the defence roundabout in Dubai, stock photo.

DUBAI // Construction delays on a major roads intersection have dismayed nearby businesses as well as drivers who must navigate through a collection of jumbled signage and constantly shifting entrance and exit ramps. Those delays are set to continue. It has been nearly four years since construction began on Dubai's Interchange One, more commonly known as the Defence Roundabout. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) yesterday confirmed what seemed obvious given the recent lack of construction activity - it will be completed later this year after a delay of more than a year and a half from its originally scheduled date of March 2009.

"The project is ongoing. It's just been rescheduled," said Peyman Younes Parham, an RTA spokesman, who did not elaborate on the reasons for the delay. "Its plans have stayed the same. It's a mega-project and it's a complicated project, but it's going ahead in terms of what's being built." That, however, has failed to allay the concerns of the management of the nearby French Bakery. The restaurant's 40-space car park was demolished last summer to make way for a tunnelling project under the interchange.

Since then, a senior manager at the bakery complained, business has nearly halved and the adjacent construction crater has been untouched for several months. "Our takeaway business has gone way down," said the manager. "We have received numerous complaints from customers." The RTA and Salini, the main contractor on the project, "started the tunnelling with a rush of construction, but they've slowed down over the last two, three months", he said. "You can see this from the number of workers there."

There were no workers yesterday in what is eventually expected to become the tunnel. Officials at Salini could not be reached for comment. Despite inquiries to both organisations about reasons for the apparent slowdown, little information had been forthcoming, the manager said. RTA officials estimated in 2008 that 16,000 vehicles would be passing through the interchange's twisting flyovers and exit ramps by now, along with double-decker buses that would be dropping off passengers at the Dubai Mall and other nearby attractions.

Instead, its confusing array of abruptly shifting lanes and stoplights mainly makes for annoying and crowded stop-start driving, said Les Howard, 48, a Briton who works at Almaya supermarket in the nearby Al Murooj Rotana hotel complex . "It's three traffic lights in about 400 metres, which is a pain," he said. "The entire project has affected us immensely. A lot of people have started moving out of the area."

The traffic snarl has led many drivers to devise alternatives to what would be their most convenient way to work. For those who commute to offices in Emaar Square, just across the street from the Rotana, Interchange One is generally avoided at all costs. "I generally come the back way, down through Al Khail road," said Katrina Baxter, a 25-year-old Briton who works at PepsiCo and commutes from Arabian Ranches.

"You learn to evolve, to adapt to it. It's really bad at night. It takes 20 minutes to get into the slip road and traffic's backed up a long way." If Interchange One was finished, she reckoned, at least 10 minutes would be knocked off her daily commute. Attempting to navigate the area at the moment is a challenge. For example, when a wrong turn took Ms Baxter to the opposite side of the road three weeks ago, it took her 20 minutes to get back on track.

"You have to go all the way down to Safa Park and then drive back," she said. "It's a long way." hnaylor@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Leah Oatway