Transport infrastructure projects are top of the agenda in the Middle East for 2014. According to the most recent figures, the ongoing roads and bridges developments across the GCC are currently valued at $109 billion. A pilot project in Abu Dhabi is the first, however, to make sustainability a priority.
The Department of Transport (DoT) in Abu Dhabi has announced that engineering design work will soon commence for the first "green road" in the Middle East. The department hopes the highway will serve as a template for future "eco-highways" throughout the Emirate.
The five-kilometre pilot project will link the existing Abu Dhabi-Dubai Main Road (E11) and the new Abu Dhabi-Dubai Main Road (E311).
The Department of Transport is collaborating with leading international institutes and consultants as well as strategic stakeholders, including the Urban Planning Council (UPC) Estidama Programme Team, the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi and Masdar, to help incorporate the latest global thinking in sustainable design.
Although precise details are yet to be finalized, the plans will include state-of-the-art technologies, such as renewable energy for lighting and solutions to lower carbon emissions, as well as environmentally-friendly construction materials including recycled asphalt/concrete aggregates and scrap rubber tyres.
According to the DoT, the materials used to build the road will also ensure the highest levels of safety and security for vehicles as well as lower maintenance and operations costs.
The "green road" project is one of the strategic initiatives undertaken by the DoT as part of the Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP), which envisages the development of a world-class and integrated road network that addresses the current and future needs of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi while also setting an example for environmentally-friendly projects.
Construction work is expected to begin in Q1 2015. Upon completion, the plan is to improve current guidelines as well as create a rating system for the future implementation of green roads throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
It is a model that will no doubt be watched carefully by other countries in the region as they undertake their own essential road infrastructure projects.
According to figures from business advisory and research firm Ventures Middle East, Qatar has allocated $20 billion to roads and highways and $35 billion to its rail network. The combined share of roads and bridges projects in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar represent more than 75 per cent of the total $109 billion projects in the region.
Oman is securing $14.8 billion on roads, rail and bridges infrastructure in the coming few years, while the Kuwaiti budget for infrastructure works is estimated at $13 billion. Bahrain, meanwhile, declared last year that it will spend more than $2.5 billion on major road, bridge, and tunnel networks.