New causeway work to start in 2015
Manama, September 23, 2012
Work on a major new causeway in Bahrain to a BD1 billion ($2.66 billion) coastal development is now expected to start at the beginning of 2015, after almost a decade of delays.
It will provide direct access to the Northern Town project from the Seef District, bypassing Budaiya Highway altogether, municipal councillor Hussain Al Sagheer told our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News.
But he said planners must await the results of two studies - one archaeological and the other on the environmental and agricultural impact - before deciding the final route. That means it could be early 2014 before designs for the highway are drawn up.
The two studies are not expected to be completed until the end of next year and are necessary to minimise impact of the new BD69 million causeway.
Al Sagheer said four possible routes had been assessed, including three inland, but it appeared a decision had now been taken to construct the new highway at sea.
It is not yet clear whether the highway will be constructed as a sea bridge or built on reclaimed land.
"It seems that roads to the Northern Town are creating big headache for the Works Ministry because it has been around a decade since they announced four possible routes," Al Sagheer, who is also the Northern Municipal Council services and public utilities committee chairman, told the GDN.
"Everyone knows the problem associated with the major inland route, which was scrapped because it would cut through homes and the St Christopher's School in Saraya.
"God knows what the plans were for the two other inland routes as the details were never presented, which leaves us with the fourth route off the coast."
However, he said this posed a unique set of problems - particularly since it could start at the coast near Bahrain Fort, which has protected status after being recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2006.
"The Works Ministry has now assigned two consultants to prepare studies on the coastal route, which should be complete by December next year due to the nature of the area that would cut through," said Al Sagheer.
"The route will start from Bahrain Fort and stretch to the town, which means it may damage the fort's heritage status in addition to affecting agriculture, irrigation and fishing in the area."
By opting to construct the highway off the mainland, authorities do not have to acquire private land or worry about the impact of an inland route on several villages located along the Budaiya Highway.
Initial plans for the project show it will involve construction of a major new junction on the Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Highway, located between Budaiya Highway and Seef, which will be known as Free Junction.
The Works Ministry has told the Northern Municipal Council that it expects the designs for the new route to take around a year to complete. It said construction of the road was therefore due to start in early 2015 and would take around two years to finish.
"Work on the final designs for the route will take a year and this means that the actual two-year construction work will begin early in 2015," he said.
His constituency includes the Bahrain Fort and he said the Works Ministry had been instructed not to rush the project to ensure minimum impact.
"We want something that everyone agrees with because we don't want the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to complain to the Culture Ministry that we have blocked the fort's view," he said.
"We just want minimum damage to the area.”
"We can't say there would be zero damage since there would be some reclamation, while some fishing and irrigation areas will be blocked, but we just want minimal impact.”
"It is a good thing that we have reached this point and have offered the ministry our utmost support to help them overcome any hurdle."
The GDN reported in April that work on a major housing project at the Northern Town, which is being constructed off the northern coast of Bahrain near Diraz and Barbar, was due to start.
Five hundred new homes were initially announced as part of a multi-phased scheme planned to create 3,000 new homes in total. – TradeArabia News Service