Kuwait has moved forward with plans to ease traffic congestion and improve transport infrastructure, with the authorities announcing that a major road project is close to completion, while a series of others are ahead of schedule.
On November 5 Ahmad Al Hassan, the then-director-general of the Public Authority for Roads and Transportation (PART), said that the Doha Link of the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah Causeway Project was 97.2% completed.
The KD165.7m ($544.8m), 12.4-km bridge connects the industrial area of Al Shuwaikh in Kuwait City with the Al Doha Peninsula on the other side of Kuwait Bay. Construction, which began in October 2007, is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The Doha bridge constitutes one of two major road links under the broader Sheikh Jaber Causeway Project, one of the most high profile of the 74 infrastructure projects under PART’s supervision.
The causeway will also include a longer sea bridge section connecting Kuwait City with the Al Subiya area on the northern side of Kuwait Bay. The route will reduce the travel distance between the two locations from 104 km to 36 km and the average commuting time for motorists from 90 minutes to 30 minutes.
According to the New Kuwait 2035 website, the estimated total cost of the full project is KD938m ($3.1bn), and it was 79% complete as of mid-November.
The progress of the Doha Link followed PART’s announcement in early October that a series of projects, including the Seventh Ring Road project, had hit construction targets earlier than expected.
Citing PART officials, local media reported that the 21.8-km Seventh Ring Road was 37% complete as of mid-October, up from 27% in May. The route will comprise seven intersections linking the Fahaheel Expressway in the east of Kuwait City to the nearby area of Al Kabd, south-west of the capital.
PART set to award contracts for new projects
The progress on the projects aligns with the New Kuwait 2035 development plan, the country’s long-term economic strategy, which identifies infrastructure as one of seven key pillars.
To this end, PART is continuing to expand its portfolio of road works, and at the end of October the state body announced that it was close to awarding contracts for 13 new projects nationwide.
Among the tenders on offer is an extension to the Seventh Ring Road Project, which will include the construction of 93 km of associated highways as part of a road network between the Fahaheel Expressway, Seventh Ring Road and Salmi Road.
An extension of the Salmi Road is another project up for grabs, and will include the construction and maintenance of 179 km of the route’s northern regional intersection.
Flooding places attention on quality of roads
These new developments come amid increased scrutiny on the quality of Kuwait’s roads following major flooding in early November.
Heavy rain and flash floods saw damage to roads, bridges and property, with several ministries announcing a state of emergency, and the Cabinet launching an inquiry to investigate the reasons for the flooding and to help formulate a plan of response.
Losses to private and public property caused by bad weather have been estimated at KD40m-50m ($131.5m-164.4m), and the incident resulted in the dismissal of Ahmed Al Hassan from his position as director-general of PART.
Soha Ashkanani was installed as Al Hassan’s replacement on November 6, and PART will likely be under pressure from public and private stakeholders to strengthen the road network’s ability to deal with heavy rainfall.
The incident followed the October release of the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Index, which found that Kuwait’s ranking in the quality of roads component dropped from 53rd of 138 countries in 2016 to 62nd of 140 economies in 2018.
While it placed much higher at 47th under the road connectivity component, there was no such category in the previous year’s index to use as a means of comparison. The 2018 index placed the country 61st for infrastructure overall, up three places on the previous year.