x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Highway upgrade promised

The most dangerous road in the country will receive a Dh40 million upgrade this year to make it safer.

Heavy lorry traffic travelling at high speed is a danger on the Al Mafraq-Al Ghweifat highway.
Heavy lorry traffic travelling at high speed is a danger on the Al Mafraq-Al Ghweifat highway.

ABU DHABI // The most dangerous road in the country will receive a Dh40 million (US$11m) upgrade this year to make it safer, the Department of Transport and Abu Dhabi Police announced yesterday. Officials said the money would be used to make improvements all along the 327km Al Mafraq-Al Ghweifat highway, the lone land link between the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Crashes on the road accounted for 14 per cent of all car accidents in the emirate in 2007, according to the department, which called the road the UAE's most dangerous. Improvements will include closing dangerous U-turns, installing solar-powered flashers at other U-turns, placing directional and warning signs along the road, and building speed humps in rest areas. Pedestrian crossings will be improved in the town of Sila.

"At the DoT we realise the importance of the Al Mafraq-Al Ghweifat highway, linking Abu Dhabi to the neighbouring regions," said Faisal al Suwaidi, executive director-highways. "We are also aware of the dangers that exist on this road. In co-operation with the Abu Dhabi traffic police, we are adopting critical measures to enhance safety and reduce the rate of accidents." Mohammed al Mazroui, a resident in Madinat Zayed in Al Gharbia, said he had narrowly avoided accidents on that stretch of road and blamed the danger on both the heavy presence of large lorries carrying freight and people making U-turns.

The ability to make U-turns along the motorway, where vehicles travel at speeds of 120kph and more, was a particular concern for Mr al Mazroui. "Most of the accidents are off the U-turn," he said. "They have to close it. They have to make a bridge. Drivers just make U-turns, they do not stop. You have to be careful. You have to see the street at 360 degrees." Under the plan for developing the road, overpasses and underpasses will be built at each junction, replacing the U-turns.

The department has shortlisted five international consortia that will design, build, finance and operate the highway. The road will be expanded to eight lanes up to the al Ruwais junction, and six lanes to the Saudi border. Police said yesterday they were also working to improve safety by increasing the number of radars, speed signs and police patrols along the road, particularly at areas known for accidents.

This year, police began installing solar-powered radars to measure vehicle speeds and transmit information about violations to a central processing centre. Twenty have been installed so far. Col Hussein al Harthei, director of the traffic engineering and road safety department of the Abu Dhabi Police, said officers would also be intensifying their efforts to reduce accidents. mchung@thenational.ae