Around the bend: New projects will lead to improved traffic flow and safety

Traffic congestion is a significant problem in Sharjah, with traffic to and from Dubai during rush hour being a particular issue due to the large number of people that live in Sharjah and commute to the neighbouring emirate. However, a range of road construction projects aimed at boosting capacity and improving traffic flow have recently been completed or are under way.

New Roads

In August 2016 the Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority (SRTA) inaugurated a new 3-km-long, two-lane ring road, connecting Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, the main link from Sharjah to and through Dubai. The new Dh49m ($13.3m) road is aimed at reducing congestion in Industrial Areas 15 and 17, located near the National Paints Bridge, and it runs near the border with Dubai. The following month the federal Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID) saw the inauguration of a 2-km section of the road as part of the wider Dh200m ($54.5m) Al Badea project, which is aimed at reducing congestion between Dubai and Sharjah. The project, which is due to be completed by the end of 2017, is intended to develop an existing heavily congested interchange linking the Sharjah section of the Emirates Road – which runs from the northern emirates to Abu Dhabi, going around Dubai City – and Mleiha Road, which connects Sharjah City with the central and eastern regions of the emirate. The project also includes the construction of a new three-lane, one-way bridge, a new three-lane exit for traffic from Sharjah to Dubai, and the widening of an existing bridge on the Emirates and Mleiha roads.

The SRTA is also in the process of building a new 12.4-km, two-lane road, linking the Dubai-Al Madam and Qatah-Nazwa roads at a cost of Dh98m ($26.7m). The authority finished half of the link by June 2016, and it was expected to be open to traffic in early 2017. Other projects worth Dh42m ($11.4m) under development in 2016 included a 3.7-km, one-way road in the Khatm area, a 2.2-km, dual-lane, one-way service road along the Sharjah-Kalba Road and a 1.5-km, two-lane service road in the Al Bataeh area. The authority announced in mid-2016 that it has broader plans to develop more than 66 km of roads in the central and eastern regions of the emirate at a cost of Dh150m ($40.8m).

Freight Unaffected

While congestion remains a problem for rush hour commuters, Iain Rawlinson, group commercial director of port management firm Gulftainer, told OBG that continued infrastructural investment and the ability to time deliveries have ensured that it was not a major challenge for freight. “Everyone else tightened their belt after the 2008-09 financial crisis, but the UAE kept investing in infrastructure, allowing them to stay ahead of the curve,” he told OBG. “There are constraints on the expansion of roads because Sharjah is an old emirate, but with measures in place to time cargo deliveries there are no real problems with congestion for freight. ( ”

Improving Safety

The authorities are also taking measures to improve road safety. Prominent among these is a ban on truck traffic introduced on January 1, 2017 on a section of the Mohammed Bin Zayed Road running from Sharjah to Ras Al Khaimah, obliging such vehicles to use the parallel Emirates Road instead. Dubai-based daily Khaleej Times reported in late 2016 that the ban is to be eventually extended to sections of the road in other emirates and is intended to improve traffic flow and decrease accidents.

Other measures intended to improve road safety include the reduction of the speed limit from 120 km per hour (km/h) to 100 km/h on the Mleiha Road in late 2016. In 2015, 30 deaths due to road traffic accidents occurred on this road, making it the most dangerous in Sharjah in that year, according to a January 2017 report by Abu Dhabi-based daily The National. Local police issued notices for 3000 speeding offences in just one weekend in December 2016. Road safety efforts appear to be having an impact, with deaths due to traffic accidents falling from 157 in 2015 to 130 in 2016, according to figures from the Sharjah Police.