A ROAD RECOMMENDED WITHOUT RESERVATION

Sharjah 2020 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: NEW COASTLINE MOTORWAY

An overdue road scheme gives commuters and truckers alike plenty of reasons to be happy.

The UAE is no stranger to traffic congestion, with many people frequently hopping between the Emirates for work and leisure alike. To that may be added the trucks that ply the highways and exacerbate kilometers of tailbacks at peak hours. Those should now be receding in the rear view mirror, however, with the launch of the UAE's 89-km Sharjah-Khor Fakkan Road, a USD1.6-billion undertaking.

Recently, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, unveiled the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 Monument, a 36.5m spiral sculpture using 72 tons of steel. For stats-geeks among our readers, the Sharjah-Khor Fakkan Road required 18,500 tons of steel and 22.8 million man-hours to build. The road, inaugurated in Khor Fakkan on April 13, is a vital stage in infrastructure endeavors geared at facilitating commerce in the East Coast city. It cuts travel time from A to B to just 45 minutes.

Tourism's Driving Force

Tourism is also at the heart of Sharjah's enhanced road connections. The now-shorter drive provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a lake, the Wadi Shis near the village of Al Rafisah, connected to Sharjah's Al Rafisah Dam. It also passes by the Resistance Memorial, commemorating the struggle of Khor Fakkan citizens in resisting a Portuguese seaborne attack in the early 16th century. The new road could even revitalize the old and once vibrant Al Sharq quarter of Khor Fakkan city. With a view over Khor Fakkan Corniche, it is home to the Salem Al Mutawa Mosque, which appears on the back of the AED5 bill. Visitors can also go to the historic Al Sharq souq, or take in the Al Sharq Fort perched on its mountain plinth.

Time for the Fast Lane

Indeed, the road is part of wider infrastructure projects that also include the Khor Fakkan Sports City and a cultural palace, while Khor Fakkan University is stated to replace a Sharjah University facility. Meanwhile, a new clock tower at the entrance of Khor Fakkan City—known as the Bride of the Eastern Coast—is designed to be tall enough to be a visible from anywhere in the city. Returning to the Sharjah-Khor Fakkan Road, entirely lit, it is also secured by central barriers against wandering livestock and whatever the wind may blow in from the desert. The road starts off with a dual carriageway 65km in length with two 7.4-m lanes in each direction, split by a 10-m wide central reservation. It has 14 intersections and seven underpasses, while several slipways provide drainage.

Its vital components include upgrades to the Al Badi interchange and three-lane ramp access to Sharjah, as well as a three-lane Dubai exit from Maleiha Road and six lanes of traffic on either side of the interchange toward Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. The remodeled 12-lane Al Badi interchange has virtually seen a doubling of its previous capacity, today accommodating 17,700 vehicles per hour, with the clearing of the Sharjah interchange now a matter of minutes. The exit from Maleiha Road now has an expanded three lanes, with three additional lanes also added to contain traffic headed for Kalba and Maleiha. Overall, the road crosses deserts (35km), plains (14km), and mountains (40km), taking in 14 intersections, seven underground crossings, and five tunnels. Notably, the 2.7-km Al Sidra Tunnel is the longest enclosed mountain tunnel in the Middle East.

The Sharjah-Khor Fakkan Road is a crucial part of Sharjah's broader infrastructure commitments, among which include security facilities including police headquarters and other government facilities. The Sharjah General Naturalisation and Residency building is reportedly set for completion by 3Q2019. In step with the goals of the UAE's overarching vision, official numbers reveal that the nation has seen a 19% rise in the overall length of federal roads since 2013, reaching 771.5km in 2018.