Dubai: An emirate on the move

When Dubai became part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1971, it was decided that a road should connect to all emirates. Starting with a highway reaching from Abu Dhabi into Dubai, the foundations were laid of modern-day Sheikh Zayed Road.

For a long time, Sheikh Zayed Road was the only road running through the emirate. It was a timeline along which the city developed, from what was main Dubai on the banks of the Creek, to new industries, business hubs, communities and trade zones filling the space up to what is now known as the port town Jebel Ali.

The Dubai bid to host Expo 2020 in that once deserted area is proof of this development. But the expansion did not stop there. As the city started crawling land inwards and the population increased with steady pace, road infrastructure could not lag behind.

In 2001, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road (then Emirates Road) was opened for traffic. Initially, its main purpose was to serve the transport of goods overland, while easing traffic flow by providing an alternative to Sheikh Zayed Road.

A third parallel road followed with the opening of Emirates Road (then Dubai Bypass Road), constructed deep into Dubailand and planned to form a connection between the emirates.

Recently Al Khail Road was opened. Although not running parallel the entire coastal strip, it forms a crucial extension to Business Bay Crossing, running between Sheikh Zayed Road and Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road.

The parallel roads became great concern for city development planners of the last two decennia. Not only did they provide access to new development areas in Dubailand, they also formed the key to a more equally distributed traffic flow, taking the pressure off Sheikh Zayed Road.

The widening of Al Khail Road

In January this year, commuters were treated with the opening of a refurbished Al Khail Road. What was previously a four-lane highway now had strips with 6 lanes. Further, new intersections provide easy access to other important roads.

With the project, which cost Dh1.9 billion, the RTA aimed to establish an auxiliary traffic corridor supporting Sheikh Zayed Road and Emirates Roads.

Towards that end, an improved connection between Al Khail Road and Emirates Road was established through the construction of a new flyover and two elevated ramps.

Further, traffic flow at the intersection with Latifa bint Hamdan Road, Arabian Ranches Road, Umm Suqeim Road, Al Qouz Residential and Industrial Areas and Al Hessa Street was eased through the construction of flyovers, modified curves, bridges, and slip roads.

Especially those commuters working or living in Business Bay prefer the road, as it is relatively empty, and no Salik is charged. Further, as part of the Roads Parallel Project, the RTA has improved the road infrastructure within the Business Bay area, providing access to and from Al Khail Road.

The widening of Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road

Over the years Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road has become an increasingly popular road. Recently, traffic only increased with the introduction of Salik toll gates at Al Ittihad Road and Beirut road, which has diverted commuters from and to Sharjah from their usual routes.

In June 2006, the RTA started the initial phase of widening Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, widening the road from three to six lanes over a 32 km stretch starting from the border with Sharjah leading up to Arabian Ranches Interchange. At the same time, The Arabian Ranches Interchange was improved with new flyovers, bridges and a tunnel providing traffic in all directions.

The second phase of the project was completed in March this year. Aimed to serve the new development areas between Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road and Al Khail Road, a 10 km sector of the road stretching from Arabian Ranches Interchange up to the outskirts of Abu Dhabi Emirate was widened from three to six lanes in each direction.

Further, the interchange linking Hessa Road, Al Khail Road and Al Barsha with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road was opened. The key interchange serves the traffic movement from and to Al Barsha via Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, providing free traffic flow in all directions, including the area under development surrounding the interchange.

The road improvements have increased the capacity of Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road up to 12,000 vehicles per hour. In total, the projects has cost Dh940 million.

The Roads Parallel Project

The Roads Parallel project is one of the most important projects of its kind, and is still under development at this point. Divided into four phases, all phases are fully operational.

The project revolves around two roads, each 64km long, stretching from Sheikh Zayed Road to the border with Abu Dhabi in the south. These parallel roads will function as arterial routes that will provide an alternative passage for commuters on Sheikh Zayed Road and Al Khail Road.

The largest undertaking of the project is the development at Trade Center Roundabout, which is expected to be completed around this time. With the construction of a 4.2 km-long link including flyovers and ramps, a new parallel road connects First Al Khail Road with Sheikh Rashid Road, gateway to Oud Metha and Al Maktoum and Al Garhoud bridges.

The Dh719 million project aims to provide an alternative to traffic inbound and outbound to the Business Bay area and First Al Khail Road, to take away the pressure of Sheikh Zayed Road and Trade Center Roundabout.

Earlier, road improvements in the Jebel Ali villages were made under the same project. The Eastern & Western Parallel Roads in both directions within Jebel Ali Industrial Area and Jafza South were improved through the construction of six bridges and four footbridges to ease the pressure on Sheikh Zayed Road and the Industrial Area.

Further, a link was established between the investment and economic zones of the Dubai World’s projects, connecting them with the surrounding roads, besides linking Jebel Ali Port with Al Maktoum International Airport, and providing a road leading to the Expo Road of Jafza.

More recently and outside the scope of this project, the widening of the Jebel Ali–Lehbab road, a 12 km-long sector stretching from the intersection with Dubai–Al Ain Road up to Lehbab Roundabout- was announced, providing a convenient alternative for commuters to and from the Jebel Ali villages.

The Parallel Roads project involves many other localities such as Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), Al Barsha, Al Qouz industrial and residential areas, Al Hessa Street, Meydan Road, Business Bay, Al Khail Road, Emirates Road, Jebel Ali Racecourse, Emirates Hills, Springs, Meadows, Jumeirah Islands and Jumeirah Park.

Dubai is continuously on the move. Although new developments often lead to new road projects, existing areas have also been renovated where needed.  One such example is Rashid Hospital Tunnels, a 4-year project that was completed in June this year. With the aim of reducing the pressure on Rashid Hospital area, the tunnels provide an alternative for commuters to Floating Bridge from Umm Hurrair Street, Tariq Bin Ziyad Street and Khalid Bin Waleed Street.

While major projects are currently underway, under construction or reaching completion, new prestigious projects have been announced to commence soon. For the latest road construction news, watch this space.

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