Sheikh Zayed Bridge eases traffic on first working day
ABU DHABI // Motorists returned to work yesterday with traffic flowing smoothly on the Sheikh Zayed Bridge which was open for its first full weekday.
Col Hussein al Harethi, the director of Abu Dhabi traffic police, said the bridge was not yet in wide use and that "most people are taking the old route from Maqta Bridge, but with time they will get to know about it".
Motorists who were aware of the new 845-metre route praised the shortened commute and traffic-free drive.
"First, the sight and view of the bridge as you are approaching is just spectacular," said John Bajado, 30, a Filipino who lives in Abu Dhabi and works on Yas Island. "Second, the drive to the main Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway is much smoother and shorter compared with when I was taking Maqta Bridge, as I had to go through a big roundabout, a traffic signal and heavy traffic."
However, the best thing about the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, he said, was that there "is much less traffic, or no traffic at all".
Commuters can expect time savings of between 10 and 30 minutes, and as many as 1,600 cars can cross the bridge each hour.
Purvi Gokani, a 31-year-old Indian living in Abu Dhabi, said she was so excited to try out the bridge that she took a drive the same day she heard it was open just to experience it.
"It's an amazing bridge," Ms Gokani said. "I have been in Abu Dhabi for eight years, and from the time I came here, it has been being built. It was really nice and very empty, and it will be very useful for me going to Dubai and not go all the way to Maqta Bridge and waiting for all the traffic lights."
The Dh1 billion project officially opened on Thursday night and is the fourth bridge to link Abu Dhabi to the mainland. The Sheikh Zayed Bridge, which took nearly eight years to complete, used more than 52,000 tonnes of structural and reinforced steel and 200,000 cubic metres of concrete.
Designed by Zaha Hadid, the structure has three sand dune-shaped arches linked together by concrete blocks that are reinforced with steel wires. The largest arch rises 63 metres above the 68metre-wide roadway.
It was scheduled for completion in 2006, but was hit by delays and budget overruns. Work began in 2003 and the completion date was pushed back at least three times. What started as a Dh600 million price tag ballooned to Dh1bn.
"Actually, I forgot about the bridge," said Khalil Sidaoui, 30, an Abu Dhabi resident from Lebanon. "I used it by mistake. I was lost and suddenly, I was on it. I didn't know it was the new bridge until I was on it."
The municipality said traffic statistics on the bridge were not immediately available. Col al Harethi said the municipality plans to put up road signs leading to the bridge this week.
"People are still afraid of taking Salam Street to avoid congestion and construction, but now traffic is very smooth from Sheikh Zayed Bridge until Al Bahr Palace," Col al Harethi said.
Last month, a municipality official said a ceremony to mark the bridge's opening might coincide with National Day. The bridge, has two four-lane carriageways, an emergency lane and a pedestrian walkway. A dynamic lighting system - composed of more than 2,000 road and below-deck cells illuminating its arches in different colours - has been set up to project patterns on to the bridge at night.
Abu Dhabi resident Amur Abbas, 25, makes the journey to Dubai at least once a week but was not convinced that the bridge will remain the quick and easy ride.
"The distance between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is not going to change," he said. "What needs to change is the traffic, which is a real mess right now. And it's a domino effect. We're talking about everyone trying to go the same way with so much construction going on, and we have a situation where you have too many construction projects going on that are interconnected."
* With additional reporting by Haneen Dajani