x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Tunnel vision reduces traffic woes for drivers in Abu Dhabi

Road and transportation projects will continue to expand as the citiy's population increases.

Sheikh Zayed Tunnel has cut the commute time for many residents but other confused drivers are misreading road signs and ending up on the Corniche. There is also a rise in westbound traffic on the road.
Sheikh Zayed Tunnel has cut the commute time for many residents but other confused drivers are misreading road signs and ending up on the Corniche. There is also a rise in westbound traffic on the road.

Road and transportation projects will continue to grow with the city's population, and will include improvements such as a metro, light rail and a bus rapid-transit loop. The construction of the new metro system is likely to start after 2015.

In September, the Secretariat General of the Executive Council issued a decree that all Abu Dhabi Government employees would have one year to move to the emirate or lose their housing allowance. More than 10,000 Government employees live in other emirates, and Abu Dhabi Police estimates 10,600 vehicles travel from Dubai to Abu Dhabi daily, carrying between 16,000 and 20,000 passengers. So the effects of the decree are likely to see quite an increase in traffic numbers within the capital.

The implementation of the planned metro will obviously help to tackle the extra numbers, although it will not be in full service until after 2020. Hashim Al Hashimi, director of public transport for the Department of Transport (DoT), said earlier this week: "[Regarding] the metro, we have just started the prelim stage, so it will take us about one year to finalise the design. Theoretically speaking you will not have any contractor working on the site before 2015."

To increase road capacity on the island, the DoT has completed two major infrastructure projects in recent weeks. The Dh800 million Bainunah Street project near Etihad Towers opened last month after an 11-month delay. It will triple capacity for planned residential and commercial projects in the west end of the island.

The 2.4-kilometre Sheikh Zayed Tunnel opened on December 5 after five years of construction.

Imran Malak's drive from Musaffah to Salam Street is 25 minutes shorter since the tunnel opened. "There's now no excuse at work of 'stuck in the traffic'," said Mr Malak, a businessman raised in Abu Dhabi.

Crosstown traffic - Click here to view five capital routes put to the test


View Abu Dhabi - Crosstown traffic in a larger map

In contrast, traffic on the Corniche has worsened - due in part to confused motorists. Rami Enani was one of many early morning commuters who misunderstood the new signs and ended up at Zayed Port instead of his Salam Street office.

"By mistake I went inside the tunnel so I found myself with the other people in Mina," said Mr Enani, 30, an Egyptian who lives outside Musaffah.

"We were all sharing the same problem. There was no early sign that mentioned before the tunnel that you should get to the extreme right."

More westbound traffic on the Corniche from the Sheikh Zayed Tunnel has caused delays across the city.

It now takes Abu Saif Al Qudsi, a Jordanian banker, about 45 minutes to travel from Khalidiya to his office on Khalifa and Muroor. Although it is only a 5km commute, it takes almost as much time as someone coming from Dubai Marina.

However, in general, navigating the city has improved since the introduce of Mawaqif metered parking. Multi-storey car parks are planned to increase capacity.

"I remember the first time I came to Abu Dhabi to visit," said Yazan Ali Nasser, 31, a Jordanian banker. "I stood in the street waiting for the cars to move and then I realised they were parked."

The DoT has a clear solution to traffic woes - public transport.

The city is to build 160 air-conditioned shelters and add luxury buses to make travel more appealing. The Metro service that is scheduled to start from 2020 will be only one part of a planned 131km network in Abu Dhabi that will also include two light-rail tram lines and a bus rapid-transit loop.

The first phase of the project will involve the installation of 18km of metro lines and 40km of the light-rail system. Two 40km light-rail transit lines are expected to be operational by 2018, DOT officials said in March.

By 2016, the circular Bus Rapid Transit system will serve Sowwah Island, the Central Market, the Cultural Foundation and Abu Dhabi Municipality.

By 2030, the DoT's public transport network is expected to serve 823,000 passengers a day, eliminate 400,000 daily road trips and remove 105,000 cars from the north of the island daily, a DoT study claims. It estimates that by 2015, the annual cost of time spent in congested traffic would be about Dh2.5 billion, rising to Dh5.9bn by 2030.

The public transport network is expected to save 102 million hours of travelling time a year, on which the study puts an annual value of Dh3.8bn. It estimates 23,000 accidents will be prevented each year, with a saving of Dh414 million.

azacharias@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Ramona Ruiz