New road promises to make life in RAK safer

Motorway due for completion in 2014 cannot come soon enough for city residents and firms tired of rutted, broken and dangerous roads.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - September 25, 2012- The road running through the village of Showka, Ras al Khaimah September 25, 2012. A federal initiative plans to improve 300 kilometers of city and village roads with the Emirate. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Among the multimillion-dirham development projects announced by the government in the past few days is the construction of RAK's western ring road.

Construction of the Dh398 million project will start by the end of the year and is expected to be completed in 2014. The 32-kilometre RAK Ring Road will bypass the city and connect Emirates Road to northern villages, quarry areas and Saqr Port. The three-lane motorway starts at Al Dhait and goes to Shimal.

The project has been eagerly awaited by lorry drivers, residents and companies because of the economic boom it is expected to bring and the safer road conditions that will benefit all motorists.

"If it will go out of the city, it will be better for us and for the truckers," said Wassim Yousef, a logistics manager. "I hope it should get better, we are worried. It is too hard for us to survive on the roads."

Mr Yousef spends an average of Dh7,500 on monthly maintenance for three of his lorries that drive from Saqr Port to South RAK twice a day.

"I'm scared for the drivers, maybe their tyres will be busted. The road is so broken that anything can happen on the road."

The ring road was first announced in 2008 with completion scheduled for 2010.

Urban and rural RAK communities have continued to suffer from overloaded lorries. Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Road, a main thoroughfare through the city centre, has deep grooves from overloaded lorries passing through night and day.

When lorries were rerouted to a quiet residential area after flooding in 2009, residents of Al Oraibi neighbourhood blocked the detour road in protest until police arrived.

The situation has improved since the recession cut demand for lorries, which usually carry rocks from southern RAK to Saqr Port.

"Before there were too many trucks but now all have stopped," said Humaid Al Maqaddam, 40, an Emirati resident of Al Oraibi. "Now there are too many people. Now you see too many cars: every home has three cars or six cars. Now all women are drivers."

Lorries are forbidden on the Nakheel Road from 6.30am to 8.30am.

But the circumstances are also difficult for lorry drivers who say the route takes much longer to navigate than it should.

Residents of the southern part of the city hope the roadworks will be completed before business picks up again. Industry in the south is expected to increase once a 2025 economic master plan for South RAK's 26 communities is announced.

The need for improved roads has increased since new housing projects have come online. Investment in electricity and government grants have supported new commercial and residential projects.

The RAK government gave Emiratis 3,020 residential plots from 2010 until today. Another 2,414 plots were allocated to the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme in 2010 and last year. These include 1,675 plots.

In the northern desert neighbourhood of Al Dhait, 1,028 residential plots have been announced in recent months.

More than half of the new plots outside of RAK city are in the south: 668 have been allocated in recent months, including 190 in Wadi Sfini and 192 in Adhen.

Last week the federal government announced an additional 300km of road construction in 51 residential areas across the emirate to be completed by August 2013.

The first phase of a 4km Khor Fakkan western ring road, costing Dh45m, for traffic from the port started last month. It is a lit, two-lane road.

Plans to extend the Sheikh Khalifa motorway that connects from Fujairah to the Sharjah-Kalba road are awaiting approval from the Sharjah government.

"There are many other projects awaiting approval," said a Ministry of Public Works official.

The ministry said Environmental Impact Assessments must be approved before all road construction.

"Compensation and public consultation is part of the services of local governments," said the official.

The road is just the start of improvements in the area. At a recent meeting chaired by Ahmed Huma Al Za'abi, Deputy Minister for Presidential Affairs, the committee approved five projects amounting to Dh100m to improve provisions of housing, roads, water, health and sewerage for citizens.

About 100 houses will be built at Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah at a cost of Dh83.8m and 12 houses worth Dh8.9m will be constructed in Masafi, in Fujairah.