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Middle East restarts construction boom

Atkins poised to snap up two signature road bridges in Abu Dhabi


New links: The new birdges will link Abu Dhabi’s main island with the emirate’s new financial district

Consultant Atkins was this week waiting for confirmation that it had won a lucrative deal to design two signature bridges in Abu Dhabi as part of a package of new structures.

The bridges will link its city centre with a new central business district, now under construction on Al Maryah Island.

The contract award was expected after the Abu Dhabi government committed £51bn over the next five years for capital projects key to the implementation of its 2030 vision.

Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed announced the investment at a meeting of the Emirates Executive Council last week.

He said the plans and projects already underway would “translate into reality” the emirate’s 2030 vision. This is aimed at moving away from an oil-based economy. Creation of the new central business district on Al Maryah island is key to that strategy.

Phase one is already largely complete. Atkins is now bidding against Aecom and Parsons Brinckerhoff to design the £187M package of four bridges in phase two. This includes the two signature structures, a cable stayed bridge and a bowstring arch bridge.

But it believes it has the edge over its two rivals, having designed the four conventional bridges for the first phase of the project.

Al Maryah Island lies just off Abu Dhabi’s main island. It was chosen to be the new central business district in the emirate’s 2030 vision. It will be linked to the main island and the adjacent growth islands of Saadiyat and Al Reem by a network of highways, 13 new bridges and a mass transit system of metro and light rail.

Developments on Al Maryah are being built around a grid 14.25m above sea level and
encircled by a 5.4km waterside promenade.

A massive investment in infrastructure is creating the multi-tiered road network and a major new transit system.

Four link bridges and 6.5km of elevated structures for roads and light rail have already been built by Al Naboodah Construction Group with Atkins providing design and site supervision for government-owned client and developer Mubadala, working alongside landscape architect Broadway Malyan.

Major infrastructure work in Abu Dhabi was scaled back following the global financial crisis in 2008. But work is now starting to move ahead again

“The market went down in 2008 but we can now see signs of it coming back,” said Atkins Middle East managing director Abdul Latif Merii. “And in Abu Dhabi its infrastructure that’s driving it.”

Other projects poised to get going include the Abu Dhabi metro. Preliminary design is now well advanced, and the Department of Transport is expected to invite design and build bids for the first 16km of the 131km network in the next quarter.

Infrastructure work singled out as being of “special economic importance” by the council included the £940M Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Programme, a project to build a 41km long sewer tunnel to transfer wastewater from Abu Dhabi island to the mainland for treatment.

Work is already underway and is being programme managed by CH2M Hill.

Also singled out was the 328km long Al Mafraq-Al Ghwaifat road project, 80km of which has been completed. The council said that tenders are now being invited for the remaining three stages.

Bin Zayed stressed that construction of housing, healthcare and schools was also a priority alongside major infrastructure projects.

The council responded by giving the go-ahead to a series of housing developments which involve heavy infrastructure investment.

Al Marya financial centre

Al Maryah Island is an extraordinary concept; a 104ha, 500m long strip of sand around 100m off Abu Dhabi’s main island that is being transformed into a financial centre by elevating 57ha of it 14m above sea level.

At podium level 4.5km of roads, a metro line and a light rail line will provide access to developments and open spaces.

Beneath will be another 12km road network for service and construction vehicles.

Once work is complete, few will know there are two layers to the island as the roads butt up to the high-rise developments.

Development is taking place in three phases. The first phase began in May 2008 and is now nearing completion. It is made up of major infrastructure works and the development of Sowwah Square, a prime site in the centre of the island that will be home to the Abu Dhabi stock exchange.

Four bridges, utilities, the multi-tiered road network and the island’s sea wall have all been built.

Creating all this demanded a huge amount of materials: the podium level roads and public realm are all supported on reinforced concrete bridges and elevated structures.

Beams were precast, but everything else was cast insitu under the supervision of Atkins engineers.

In total 400,000m3 of insitu concrete was poured. “It’s a lot of concrete, as you can see,” said Atkins head of infrastructure sites supervision Taysir Al Muti. A further 8,000m3 of precast concrete was used in making the 3,700 l-beams needed, 20% of which are posttensioned. It all sits on 1,420 piles up to 30m deep.

More work went on below ground, with 2.16km of cut and cover utility tunnels buried along the service level roads.

“The utilities are all in a massive tunnel,” observed Al Muti. “It is something that was planned from day one. It means there will be no more digging here. Once it’s done its done.”

The second phase will develop the southern and central part of the island as a mixed-use residential and commercial area with a strong focus on community facilities.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Are your facts correct? Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed is the Crown Prince, not the Ruler of Abu Dhabi. This is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, also the President of the UAE.

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