CROSSING THE BRIDGE

Kuwait 2017 | INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION | FOCUS: SHEIKH JABER AL-AHMAD AL-SABAH CAUSEWAY PROJECT

Due to be completed in 2018, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Causeway Project is the government's flagship project to transform Kuwait into a regional transportation hub.

Widely considered to be the flagship infrastructure project planned under the government's five-year development plan, the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Causeway Project (SJSC) is on schedule to be completed by the end of 2018. The causeway constitutes a prime example of the government's successful implementation of the public-private partnership (PPP) model to not only bring about much-needed infrastructural renovations, but also to provide a sustainable financing solution with it. Despite staggering temperatures of up to 53 degrees Celsius, sandstorms, and high humidity levels at the construction sites, thorough feasibility studies and novel concreting methods have been crucial to meeting the operational challenges of one of the region's most complex infrastructure projects. With a total estimated project cost of more than KWD738.75 million, which is equivalent to more than USD2.5 billion, the megaproject will accommodate one of the largest ocean-crossing causeways in the world.

Consisting of two causeway links, the SJSC's main link will encompass a 36.1km bridge with six lanes in both directions across Kuwait Bay, connecting Shuwaikh Port in Kuwait City to newly developed Subiyah New Town. Tendered by the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) until 2013, major engineering and design powerhouses including SYSTRA Design, Hyundai, and DONGBANG Engineering eventually formed a consortium to design, construct, and complete the flagship project's main link. With traffic congestion being especially preeminent in Kuwait City, the SJSC's main link will not only decongest the country's capital, but will also expectedly shorten travel time between Shuwaikh and Subiyah by 40 minutes. Moreover, Kuwait City, which is part of the Al-Asimah Governorate, as well as neighboring governorates, such as Mubarak Al-Kabeer, or Hawalli, constitute areas of high population density. In this regard, the new causeway will further contribute to bridging the gap between Kuwait's “North-South" divide. Furthermore, two artificial islands on the SJSC's northern and southern side will house maintenance and fuel stations. On the other hand, the SJSC's additional “Doha link" will reduce road congestion and provide a faster connection between the Shuwaikh Port area and Entertainment City in the western Doha peninsula. Adjacent to the SJSC's main Subiyah spur, the causeway's Doha link will also extend across a 7km sea bridge across Sulaibikhat Bay and ultimately connect with Doha Expressway. With estimated costs of up to KWD169 million, the causeway's Doha link roughly accounts for one-fourth of overall project costs. Given the project's complexity, however, the causeway's two links have separately been called for tenders. Accordingly, a different consortium, consisting of GS Engineering & Construction, Dar Al Handasah, and SSH Design, was formed to handle the design, construction, and maintenance of the Doha link. Moreover, nearly two years before the project's contractual end date of November 2018, the MPW recently announced that more than one-third of the causeway's Doha link is already complete.

With the constructing site reclaiming more than 1.5 million sqm of land, the SJSC is set to transform the country's infrastructure and the mobility of Kuwaitis for years to come. In addition to catering for a host of much-needed viaducts, bridges, drainages, and intelligent transport services, the causeway is a success story in terms of foreign companies being directly involved in turning Kuwait into a regional transportation hub. In view of this, the causeway project is on a par with various infrastructural improvements including port redevelopments, the construction of a new terminal at Kuwait International Airport, as well as major road renovations. Incorporating various state-of-the-art construction technologies and intelligent transport systems, the SJSC nonetheless constitutes the centrepiece of the government's infrastructural ambitions to align Kuwait with the rest of the GCC to enable the country's transformation into a post-oil “knowledge economy."