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Region's longest tunnel to open in UAE this year

posted on 06/06/2011: 1131 views

Abu Dhabi authorities are pushing ahead with the Middle East's longest traffic tunnel and the project is set to be inaugurated on schedule before the end of this year, the semi official daily 'Al Ittihad' reported on Sunday.

Nearly 80 per cent of the Dh5bn venture, one of the largest construction contracts in the region, has been completed and the tunnel and its adjoining roads and causeways will become fully operational by the end of 2011.

Quoting unnamed officials at the Abu Dhabi municipality, which oversees Al-Salam tunnel project, the Arabic language newspaper said most parts of the tunnel had already been opened and are being used by vehicles.

"Some surface roads have also become operational….we expect the project to be fully inaugurated before the end of this year,” the official said.

The tunnel had been due to be completed at the end of 2010 but was delayed because of technical and topographical reasons.

Officials said last month part of the project would be opened by the end of June, including causeways linking Abu Dhabi mainland to the nearby Reem Island.

According to Ahmed Al Housani, a spokesman for the Abu Dhabi Municipality, obstacles that delayed the project included the presence of a large network of power and water cables and pipes, which he said had to be avoided during the construction process, mainly in the densely-populated Tourist Club area.

"Another factor is that the tunnel passes under a densely populated area…this means it is being constructed in a difficult topographical environment….but a large part of the project has already been finished and it will be ready by the end of the year…it will largely ease traffic congestion in the city.”

South Korea's Samsung Construction is carrying out the project, which links the Tourist Club and other parts of the city to Reem Island, where at least 100,000 inhabitants will live. The causeways to the island have already been completed and are being used but have yet to be officially inaugurated.

More than 2,000 workers have been involved in the construction of the three-km tunnel, which starts from the eastern entrance of Abu Dhabi city and runs under Al-Salam street towards Port Zayed on the western tip of the capital.

Around two kilometres of the tunnel would be embedded nearly 15 metres underground while the rest would be open and near the surface level.

The project also includes development of road networks stretching more than 20 km on the eastern edge of the capital towards the Northern Emirates.

The project has severely disrupted traffic and caused massive road bottlenecks on Salam Street and the Tourist Club area in the eastern part of the Capital but officials say such problems would be a matter of the past once the tunnel and accompanying flyovers are completed.

"This mega tunnel project is part of the municipality's strategic aim to meet the requirements of a developing city, as well as respond to the needs of the growing population. Furthermore, the municipality's efforts are directed towards securing an advanced network of infrastructure and transportation facilities to achieve the highest level of road system efficiency in Abu Dhabi,” the Municipality said.

Officials said the tunnel is part of a long-term blueprint by Abu Dhabi to expand its inhabited areas and road networks to cope with a sharp rise in the population, which officials expect to nearly triple in the next 20 years."The project is vital for the Capital's development plans in the long term as it is intended to cope with the expected large increase in the population and traffic.” – Emirates 24|7


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