With Jeddah’s population expected to grow to 5m by 2029, from its current size of 3.6m, a considerable number of new cars and people are taking to the streets each year, putting increasing pressure on infrastructure. While plans are afoot to reduce reliance on cars through an integrated transport system, this is not due to be fully operational until 2020. In the meantime, projects are under way to upgrade roadways and utilities. Over the next 18 months, the authorities will complete 13 infrastructure projects worth a total of $238.8m, providing benefits for the city and a considerable number of opportunities for private sector involvement.
ROADS: While work on the city’s roadways is still ongoing, congestion is already visibly easing. For decades the main north-south highway was Medina Road, primarily because it was the route to the airport. With the development of the new airport, traffic is likely to shift east to Prince Majed and King Fahd Roads. Work is already under way on the latter to build an overpass at the intersection with Bani Malik Road to ease southbound traffic. Completion of this project is expected by the summer of 2015, at a cost of $24.5m. This bridge is one of many projects along this roadway aimed at ensuring smooth traffic flow from the airport to the road between Al Lith and Jizan further down the coast.
On King Fahd Road under- and overpasses are replacing roundabouts and traffic lights. The road runs from Jeddah Islamic Port, past Al Balad up to the airport. As these are three key areas of Jeddah, easing travel between them would be beneficial for both local residents and commerce in the city more generally. The project is slated to cost $103.7m and is being carried out as subcontracts tendered by the municipality.
King Abdullah Road and Tahlia Street, two major local roads running east-west that have also been affected by heavy congestion, are benefitting from the construction of under- and overpasses on the north-south roads that they intersect, further freeing up movement in the city, most notably by allowing rapid access to the ring road and thereafter routes heading out of the city.
WATER: Upgrading stormwater management, a task that falls under the remit of the municipality, is seen as key to Jeddah’s economic and social development, as well as the safety of its citizens. In response to the floods of 2009-10, major culverts were created to drain flood basins. The Jeddah Development and Urban Regeneration Company worked on the construction of a series of six dams – five of which have already been completed, with the remaining one currently under construction, as of July 2014 – and just under 20 km of open canals. As of July 2013, up to 12 firms had qualified to work on further flood defence projects in the east of Jeddah, with a value of some $503.9m.
Projects to manage sewage in the city are almost completed, with 95% of the main networks and tunnels and 60% of sub-networks finished, connecting nearly 36,500 people to the system as of October 2013. A National Water Company reservoir project valued at $586.5m, situated in the Briman area approximately 15 km to the east of Jeddah, has been designed to address the city’s longstanding water shortages. The first phase of this project, which is intended to supply 1.5m cu metres, will be ready by the end of the second quarter of 2014.
IMPACT: The city is in serious need of a mass transit system, and while planning for this is still under way, efforts taken so far to overhaul the road network are working – as stop-gap at least. While projects addressing water supply, flooding and sewage treatment appear to be catching up with current demand, it is unclear if they will be able to handle future needs. In this respect, privatisation of wastewater management remains a potential option, and the example of such concessions at King Abdullah Economic City and Jizan Economic City could influence the municipality in this area.
The work to complete these infrastructure projects, and the government’s efforts to involve the private sector, will provide many opportunities in the near future, while these projects will no doubt prove a boon to Jeddah’s economy, making investment in the city, in both the short and long term, increasingly compelling.
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