THE BAY TO WATCH

Kuwait 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS: SHEIKH JABER AL AHMAD AL SABAH CAUSEWAY

New cities and projects will change the landscape and economic importance of Kuwait's northern region, necessitating improved linkages to and from Kuwait City.

Kuwait is anticipating both increased congestion and growing economic importance of the Arabian Gulf. One of the most innovative and grandiose infrastructure projects in the Middle East, the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad al Sabah Causeway (SJSC) project is deemed crucial to facilitate new developments north of Kuwait City. It is the fourth-largest causeway in the world and one of the largest infrastructure projects in the GCC, with a construction value standing at approximately USD3 billion. The project owner is the Ministry of Public Works, which commissioned Systra, a French company, to design the causeway, and GS E&C, a South Korean company, to build it. Construction should be finished by the end of 2018.

The main causeway, called the Subiyah Link, will cross the Kuwait Bay for 36km, and the additional 13-km Doha Link will cross the south of the bay, linking Shuwaikh Port to the Doha motorway. The 30m-wide causeway will include three lanes and an emergency lane in each direction and will feature an arched pylon and connecting cables to support the bridge and create an iconic landmark in the bay. The plan also involves 1.5sqkm of reclaimed land for two artificial islands, with two marinas, motorway interchanges, a visitor center, and infrastructure services buildings. The new visitor center and main administration and management building will be located on the Shuwaikh side, with innovative architecture that will make it another featured landmark of the project.
Below the water's surface, plans are in place to compensate for marine habitat loss from construction. Environmental risk assessment and impact assessment were included in the SJSC feasibility study, and rehabilitation components are built into the project. There will no permanent environmental damage, as marine habitats will be replaced in a 3:1 ratio through the creation of an artificial natural vegetation habitat and mangrove plantations.
Though at its core, the causeway remains a utilitarian construction with the primary goal of connecting Subiyah and Kuwait City. The trip from Subiyah, and its newly dubbed Silk City project, to Kuwait City currently is a whopping 135-km, making a daily commute close to impossible. Currently, the trip takes more than an hour, but following the completion of the project it should take about 20 minutes.
The project is part of an urbanization strategy that seeks to avoid the obstacles that other bay-neighboring cities like Mumbai and San Francisco have encountered. Because they lay on a bay, urban growth is restricted on at least two sides, making for high housing prices and severe traffic, hurting livability and productivity.
Kuwait strives to find a way around the problem by organizing its housing policy around finding more livable space. As a result of strong population growth, Kuwait is looking to more evenly distribute people—a goal that will require infrastructure developments in newer cities and connecting infrastructure to Kuwait City.
The main goal of these new cities, thus, is to expand the Kuwait City urban area, easing congestion in the city center and taking preventive action against potential over-densification of the city. As such, the SJSC project fills a vital part of Kuwait's long-term urbanization and housing strategy. And the development of the vast territories near Kuwait City will need strong infrastructure to be truly linked to the capital and heart of the country.
Regionally, the plans include the causeway's integration into China's vision for a renewed Silk Road, the One Belt, One Road initiative. Other relevant developments in Subiyah include Silk City, an urban area that will feature a nature reserve, adjacent airport, various industry centers, and a skyscraper, which is planned to be taller than Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building in the world. SJSC and Silk City will more deeply solidify Kuwait's integration in the One Belt, One Road project, strengthening its position throughout the region.