Mideast’s longest traffic tunnel to open early 2012

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By Staff  www.emirates247.com

A Dh4.8-billion road project in Abu Dhabi involving building the Middle East’s longest traffic tunnel has been partly completed and it could be inaugurated in the first quarter of 2012, according to operators.

Nearly 88 per cent of the Salam project has been completed and part of the street will be opened to traffic at the Tourist Club, Najda and Hamdan street areas soon, the Abu Dhabi Municipality said.

“The project is expected to cost around dh4.8 billion and if the pace of work continues at the same level, the project will be inaugurated in the first quarter of 2012,” a municipality source said, quoted by the semi official daily Alittihad.

The source said the three-km-long tunnel would have a capacity of more than 8,000 vehicles at a time as it includes four lanes in each direction.

The project had been due to be completed by the end of 2010 but was delayed for technical reasons as the tunnel passes under several residential areas and involves massive networks of power and water cables and pipes.

“The main obstacle 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…it will largely ease traffic congestion in the city,” an official said.

South Korea’s Samsung Construction is carrying out the project, which will also link the mainland to the nearby Reem Island, where at least 100,000 inhabitants will live. The causeway to the island has already been completed.

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 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 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.

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,” said Jumma Al Junaibi, the Municipality’s Director General.

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