New Dubai-Abu Dhabi road 'may not solve all problems'
A planned expansion of Emirates Road from Dubai to Abu Dhabi would improve traffic flow and economic development, but not solve long-term safety issues or strains on commuters, experts say.
The Abu Dhabi Executive Council announced funding for the expansion of the road last Monday. The cost and a route have yet to be announced. The road could connect the E311 to Abu Dhabi, giving commuters and industrial traffic from Jebel Ali a faster route. The E311 now joins the E11, which is the only road between Dubai and the capital, at the Abu Dhabi border.
"The extension of the Emirates Road may help reduce traffic and improve safety on the motorway, which may have a positive effect on the daily commuting experience," said Dr. Ximena Guinguis, a psychologist at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre who commutes daily. "However, from a mental health point of view it is not the solution since the commuter will still have to spend four hours or more daily behind the wheel, which in itself is stressful.
"I believe that a good railway system can bring a new experience to the commuter. "The stress levels will be reduced, which have a direct effect on the quality of life." Nor would the expansion necessarily make the commute safer for motorists, said Dr. Yaser Hawas, a civil engineer and professor of transport and traffic engineering at UAE University.
"Do we really need to add more capacity because we want to reach areas for development or are we doing this only because of the congestion?" Dr. Hawas asked. "I have concerns about what the severity of the crashes would be. "It would definitely decrease the number of accidents on the road but the severity may increase because there will be less traffic, and this could encourage road users to driver faster."
Road design, "better monitoring and more active patrolling", and a strict enforcement of the 120 kph speed limit would go a long way to addressing these problems, he added. Better movement of traffic would mean improved access for emergency services, and weather concerns could be eased with control centres that warn drivers of hazards, Dr. Hawas said. Road design should take visibility into account. Sharp turns in the road are best avoided but mild variations every five kilometres keep drivers alert. "You need to introduce a little bit of curvature to help gain the driver's attention back," Dr. Hawas said.
A 100km expansion could be built within two years, said Ralph Giebeler, the branch manager for transport and infrastructure at the construction company Strabag Abu Dhabi.
Motorways to be built in the Emirates must follow new safety specifications: wider roads, shoulders on the right and left, emergency spots and surfaces with better grip that reduce stopping distances.
The expansion could also include integrated traffic management that records how many vehicles use sections to regulate speed limits depending on congestion. "Ten years ago roads were simply designed as to alignment. Since maybe two or three years it has got a lot better," Mr Giebeler said.
Police, road-safety experts, contractors and authorities now work together more closely than ever on road design. Regardless of the road, a long daily commute can cause long-term stress. This is manifested as physical and mental fatigue, pain, dizziness, stomach problems, raised blood pressure, moodiness, anxiety, irritability and agitation. "There is a certain need [for the extension] in the sense of making the commute less stressful for the drivers," said Dr. Carrie York, a psychologist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi.
"That being said, you also have to take into account the larger picture and what effect that new road will have on the environment, because the environment affects our well-being as well." In any case, commuters should find exercise or social outlets to help battle stress. "Stress of any kind, whether it's [from] driving or other factors, can have a long-term effect if it's not dealt with or discharged," Dr. York said.
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