Qatar National Vision 2030, the country’s blueprint for the future, lays out ambitious goals for environmental, social, human and economic development in the coming decades. As part of these economic plans, the authorities aim to invest energy revenues into infrastructure projects, in order to build an environment in which a more diversified economy can flourish. In pursuit of this goal, planners have been on course to execute a complete overhaul of the state’s current transport network, newly building or renovating virtually every piece of the system. While major projects such as a new railway network, deepwater port and international airport have attracted attention for their scale and hefty price tags, a more widespread change is already occurring on the country’s roads and highways.
Road expansion is not solely the object of economic targets, however. It is also a response to growing demand. The number of vehicles registered in Qatar grew from 287,500 to 876,039 between 2000 and 2012, Qatar National Bank said in its October 2013 monthly economic report. For the time being cars are the country’s primary mode of transportation.
As a result, the authorities have been placing increasing emphasis on road development. Spearheading these efforts is Ashghal, the Public Works Authority. Established in 2004, the department is responsible for planning, designing and managing all infrastructure and public building projects in the state, including roads, sewerage systems, schools and hospitals. Ashghal expects to spend QR30bn ($8.2bn) over the next five to seven years on road and building projects throughout the country. In June 2013 the Public Works Authority announced more than QR7bn ($1.9bn) in contracts for 24 expressway projects, according to state-run Qatar News Agency. Ashghal has divided the overhaul of the state’s roads into two parts: the Expressway Programme and Local Roads Programme.
In The Express Lane
The Expressway Programme is a series of 30 highway projects stretching 900 km and criss-crossed by 200 interchanges. The project includes highways, service roads and freight routes to divert lorries away from high-traffic areas. Work on the programme has been ongoing since 2010, but construction began to reach full steam in 2012. Ashghal says the QR16bn ($4.4bn) Expressway Programme should be complete by the third quarter of 2017.
Several of the projects are aimed at developing connections between Doha and other municipalities. In June 2012 work started on upgrades to the North Road (Al Shamal Road), improving the link between Doha and Al Ruwais, a municipality on the northern tip of the peninsula. Turkey’s Tekfen is working on the upgrades, including interchange improvements, new service roads, and pedestrian and bike paths. While the northern region’s population was a modest 8000, according to the 2010 census, the government has plans to revitalise the area. Work is ongoing to restore historic forts and mosques in the region. Other infrastructure in Al Ruwais is being expanded as well, including a $247.7m port project expected to buoy the area’s fishing industry.
Closer to Doha, the North Road also runs through the North Gate mixed-use development, set to be one of the country’s largest retail areas. Another major national highway development will link Doha to the western city of Dukhan. The eight-lane, QR3.7bn ($1bn) road started construction in October 2011, and Ashghal expects delivery by the end of 2015. Located about 60 km west of Doha, Dukhan is home to one of Qatar’s most important oil fields. The 15-km section of the road starting from Al Wajba was near completion by the end of 2013, Qatar National Bank said in its September 2013 monthly economic report.
Links To Lusail
While improvements to the North Road and Dukhan highway aim to improve connections on a national level, work is also under way just north of the capital, where Lusail City is under construction. The QR3.5bn ($958.7m) Lusail Expressway, which began construction in November 2012, is expected for delivery by the end of 2017. The primary construction contract went to South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction. This 5.3-km highway is set to connect the Lusail City development area to Al Istiqlal Road, which runs along the coast into central Doha.
Road work will include three large interchanges linking Lusail to The Pearl residential development and Katara Cultural Village and retail area. Within Doha itself, the second phase of upgrades on Salwa Road was released in the third quarter of 2013, according to Ashghal. The QR1.7bn ($465.6m) upgrades added underpasses and bridges to the throughway.
While Ashghal’s Expressway Programme aims to create a more interconnected Qatar, the Local Roads Programme focuses on connections within the municipalities themselves. Qatar-based Al Sarh Contracting and Trading has been working on various road improvements in Doha worth over QR76m ($20.8m) since February 2011. In July 2013 a trio of Qatar-based contractors – Bin Omran, Al Jaber & Makhlouf and Qatar Building Company – started work in the central West Bay area on converting eight roundabouts to signal-controlled intersections. Meanwhile, in the district of Al Thumama near the airport, over QR360,000 ($98,604) in roadwork has been under way since December 2010. The Local Roads Programme encompasses municipalities outside of the capital as well. Work has been in progress since July 2011 on a QR17m ($4.7m) roads project in Al Khor, north of Doha. In Rawdat Al Hamama, also to the north of the capital, QR186m ($50.9m) worth of grading works is set to prepare the area for further infrastructure development.
While work on the primary roads and highways network is under way, the authorities are also making progress on two large-scale bridge projects that would radically transform traffic patterns in the country. The more well-known of the two is the long-anticipated causeway linking Qatar to Bahrain. The project has been on the books for a number of years, but several obstacles like financial concerns and disputes over the design have stalled progress. These challenges notwithstanding, steps taken in recent months have been promising. In November 2013 the causeway authority’s board decided that a redesign was required for the 40-km roadway. The body says it expects the project to be operational just before the World Cup.
In December 2013, meanwhile, Ashghal announced a new project called Sharq Crossing, a trio of bridges designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and US-based Fluor Corporation. The bridges, connected by underground tunnels, are set to link Hamad International Airport, Katara Cultural Village and the West Bay financial district. The three bridges and connecting subsea tunnels are set to stretch 12 km across Doha Bay. The project is still in its early stages, however. “Work is expected to begin some time in 2015, after completing all necessary formalities during 2014, with an expected completion by 2021,” Nasser bin Ali Al Mawlawi, Ashghal’s president and senior engineer, said when announcing Sharq Crossing to the public.
As new roads, the new port and other transport projects come on-line, operators will hopefully see less congestion in Doha, facilitating work across the nation.