Complex Made Simple

Dubai road plan angers residents

Dubai's booming real estate market has attracted worldwide attention as homeowners have seen their investments soar in value. However, less well known are some of the risks of investing in the emirate, including the fact that projects can be altered with little or no notice and that even developed communities can receive unwelcome makeovers to fit the infrastructural needs of the rapidly expanding city.

The most recent example of this unfortunate side of the Dubai real estate market is a plan to build major roads through several up-market neighbourhoods in the emirate, which has sparked outrage among residents, who have started a petition urging the government to reconsider the project.

Residents say they have been mostly kept in the dark about the plan, which they fear will dramatically increase traffic congestion and noise, decrease pedestrian safety, and lower their property values.

The multi-billion dirham parallel roads scheme is being developed by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in a bid to alleviate congestion on the city’s busy main highway, Sheikh Zayed Road.

The RTA says that the project will eventually create two new corridors running from the Zabeel district to the border of Abu Dhabi that will be capable of handling 18,000 vehicles an hour.

To create the parallel corridors, some existing roads will be widened and new ones will be created, some of which will cut through existing communities.

Springs Road, for example, a narrow two-lane arterial road with speed bumps that bisects the Springs development in Emirates Hills would be converted into a major throughway with up to four lanes in each direction.

In the nearby Lakes community, a street known as Lakes Driveway would be expanded in a similar manner.

Residents receive few details

Residents say that Emaar, the developer of the communities, and the RTA have repeatedly refused to provide specific details about the project and to consider possible alternatives since rumours of the plan first surfaced in 2006.

They say their hopes of having a say in the project were dashed when workmen recently began removing palm trees and digging trenches in what is perceived to be a signal that initial work on the project has begun.

In response, nearly six hundred residents of the Springs, Meadows, and Lakes communities have signed a petition calling on the RTA to suspend the project pending a review.

The petition says the project ‘does not reflect the best solution to a perceived traffic problem that probably no longer exists’. It adds that ‘such roads would have a detrimental effect on both the standard of life within our existing pleasant neighbourhood community and the health of its residents’.

Some petitioners have expressed frustration that the roads were never part of the initial plan for the community. For example, one petitioner wrote: ‘Nothing will undermine confidence in Dubai more than planning decisions such as this. The future of the emirate relies heavily on an increasing number of residents to purchase property here. There have to be alternative solutions that work around existing and planned developments. The current plan to build these highways will destroy the ‘gated community’ that everybody was promised, and which the developers and Dubai are so keen to promote.’

RTA responds

Responding to resident’s concerns about the lack of communication about the project, Engineer Nabil Mohammed Saleh, Director of the RTA’s Traffic Department, said, ‘generally speaking, RTA communicates and coordinates with the main developers, as may be considered as ‘stake holder’ and as per needed for any contract. The RTA in coordination with Emaar will call for a presentation where all representatives will be invited to see more details regarding the RTA’s plans to develop parallel roads in these communities’.

He insisted that the RTA will take steps to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, including adding new footpaths and pedestrian crossings.

He also said the authority has designed several noise-minimising walls that will be integrated into the landscape.

However, when asked whether the RTA was considering any modifications that would affect the scope of the project, Saleh simply said, ‘no’. On a slightly more positive note, he added that ‘one of the most difficult challenges for the RTA is achieving the required number of lanes without expropriating any part of private villas or impacting the boundary wall areas. The RTA now can announce that it managed to achieve this goal by 100%’.

Emaar could not be reached for comment for this article.