By Manal Ismail www.thenational.ae
A senior transport official said yesterday a second motorway between the capital and Dubai would be under way within four years as part of a strategy to reduce congestion and improve road safety in Abu Dhabi emirate.
Bader al Qamzi, speaking at an engineering forum yesterday at the Higher Colleges of Technology, said the second Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway was part of the Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP), which aimed to fulfil Abu Dhabi’s increasing transportation needs.
The emirate expects traffic to increase five-fold by 2030.
Mr al Qamzi, the director of the integrated transportation planning division within the surface transport sector at the Department of Transport (DoT), produced timetables at the forum that suggest the project will be under way by 2015.
The scheme to provide additional capacity to the existing E-11 motorway will have the new, four-lane carriageway run parallel, according to an STMP report on the DoT website that described a “second Abu Dhabi – Dubai freeway”.
Transport authorities have taken a series of initiatives to combat the number of road accidents.
The Al Ain portion of the Al Ain-Dubai motorway is being expanded in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on Dubai’s fourth-most dangerous road. Improvements to the E-66 motorway are scheduled for completion in September and include increasing the number of lanes in each direction to four.
Mr al Qamzi said a crucial factor to meeting the goals mentioned in the STMP was the use of public transport.
Experts at the forum said that increasing driving costs – for example, by charging for parking and increasing the cost of petrol – could force motorists to use alternative transport.
“For example, some may not want to pay the parking fees. If you live in a building that does not have underground parking, you may find parking outside and you may not – and some may not want to deal with this [uncertainty],” Mr al Qamzi said.
The STMP, said Mr al Qamzi, would be implemented in four phases in five-year increments. The plan calls for two major transportation hubs: one in the central business district near Mina and Reem islands, and the other near the City Souq area.
Officials admitted that convincing drivers to choose public transport over private vehicles would be a challenge.
To tackle this, part of the master plan involves a “mobility management component”, which brings together participation of all major stakeholders, including employers, in the process of providing incentives for residents to commute using public transport.
“For example, we will encourage employers to provide bus transportation for their staff,” Mr al Qamzi said.
“Consumers are very smart,” said Austin Smith, head of the department of transport and studies at the University of Westminster in London. He said the government needed to use cost incentives to motivate drivers to use public transport.
“This is a strong argument big cities globally use for placing a congestion charge, such as the use of tolling on individuals,” Mr Smith said. “The revenue made from this charge can then be recycled for use towards public transport.”
Other factors, such as land use, comfort and convenience, especially considering the local climate, also played an important role, experts said.
While there are many similarities between Abu Dhabi and other major cities, the crucial difference is Abu Dhabi’s rapid growth in the past 30 years.
The DoT also announced the establishment of a Freight Transport Master Plan yesterday.
“The shipping industry in Abu Dhabi has witnessed a phenomenal 15 per cent growth over the last five years worth nearly US$300m (Dh1.1 billion),” the DoT said in a statement. “The transport of cargo is totally dependent upon the road network for internal transportation because of the lack of a rail network.”
The National Transportation Authority and the Union Railways Company are establishing a railway network spanning 1,100 kilometres that will provide a high-speed train system and link the seven emirates, alleviating congestion caused by heavy vehicles.
The DoT announced that it had finalised agreements with some major international construction companies specialised in developing the multimodal cargo transportation sector for projects in the emirate.