Traffic woes at Pearl’s lone exit create safety concerns for residents
Despite concerns about increasing traffic congestion at the Pearl-Qatar, the lead developer and management company of the island has said it has no plans to build any additional entry or exit points there.
Currently, there is only one way for cars and most residents to enter and leave the Pearl.
As the island’s population grows and construction work in the area picks up, more residents have begun expressing concern that a sole access point is a risk to safety and security, especially when it becomes blocked by long lines of traffic at peak times.
This would make it impossible, for example, for emergency services to leave or enter the island.
But United Development Co. (UDC) told Doha News that while it understands concerns, “There are no plans to build any new access/exit points at The Pearl Qatar.”
In recent months, residents have reported more traffic snarls, particularly in evenings and during the weekends, on the Pearl ring roads and on Lusail Street, between Katara and Lagoona roundabouts.
One resident, Jennifer Tan, said it took her one hour to drive from Tower 2 to the small Spinneys store in Porto Arabia last Thursday, while others say that the gridlock is so bad on weekends that they feel they are effectively being held captive on the island.
Lusail Street is currently undergoing extensive construction as part of plans to create a multi-level highway connecting West Bay/Dafna with the new city of Lusail, to the north of the Pearl.
As part of the works, several roads that previously carried traffic from the Pearl out of the area were closed last year, forcing all vehicles to travel on the one route towards Katara, which can quickly get backed up at peak times.
To help cope with the congestion, residents have asked UDC to take action to improve the infrastructure serving the island, and to work with authorities to open up additional routes to and from the Pearl.
Maureen Chisholm, who lives in Tower 7 of Porto Arabia, told Doha News that traffic now regularly backs up at the one point of entry and egress from the Pearl, causing tailbacks in both directions:
“If there was an accident, sick person or pregnant lady needing to get to a hospital quickly it would be a nightmare,” she said.
Ellora Soucek, a mother of two who lives in Porto Arabia, told Doha News that a bus that had broken down at the main exit off the Pearl blocked traffic for more than an hour yesterday morning, causing delays for people trying to leave for work and school.
Another Pearl resident, Susan Sullivan, said:
“The amount of traffic is horrendous, the concerns of residents about having to get off The Pearl for various reasons such as an emergency or with flights to catch are genuine.”
Whereas you could allow at the most an hour to get to the airport, on a weekend you would have missed your flight. As for emergencies, for the emergency services to get on The Pearl at rush hour, it just wouldn’t happen.”
The problems appear to get worse when there are events at Katara, which can clog up the length of Lusail Street.
For example, last weekend’s welcome parade and ceremony for Qatar’s U19 football team, which won its first AFC U-19 Championship title in Myanmar, led to heavy traffic all around the area.
This month, many residents have voiced their frustrations about the growing traffic on Twitter:
Worse to come
With many parts of the Pearl still under construction, residents fear that the traffic problem will only get worse in the months and years to come.
In June this year, a UDC spokesman told Doha News that between 11,300 to 12,250 residential units on the island were complete.
The island is being built in stages and by 2018, it is expected to have a total of 18,831 villas, apartments, chalets and townhouses.
So far, only a fraction of these are occupied. In June, this was estimated to be 3,500-4,000, although this could now stand at more than 5,000 as the vacant properties were expected to be released and filled up at approximately 1,000 units a quarter.
Moreover, as the weather cools, the area becomes an increasingly popular weekend destination for families to go for a meal and walk by the marina, further compounding the traffic on and off the island.
And it could be set to become even busier as the Kempinski Hotel, currently under construction near Qanat Qartier, prepares to open to the public before the year-end.
Issues with internal phone lines on the Pearl over the past month has also added to residents’ safety concerns, as they say they have been unable to contact The Shield, which manages security on the island and the entrance to The Pearl.
In a statement to Doha News, Abdulrahim Al Ibrahim, director of The Pearl’s Central Authority Directorate, said that UDC was “fully aware and shares the concerns relating to the current traffic conditions outside The Pearl-Qatar.”
He said that due to ongoing infrastructure works to the Lusail highway and the surrounding area “there will be the inevitable traffic conditions which results in congestion which is being faced by the residents when entering and exiting The Pearl-Qatar at peak times.”
“UDC would like to point out that these works are ongoing outside The Pearl-Qatar from the Lagoona roundabout up until Katara Roundabout. As such, these areas do not fall under the jurisdiction of UDC and are controlled by the government department Ashghal.
Unfortunately, however, these subsequent works do have a knock-on effect for all those exiting or entering The Pearl-Qatar. There are no plans to build any new access/exit points at The Pearl Qatar.”
He said that UDC has regular meetings with Hyundai, the main contractor for the highway project, and has been recently told that a new, three-lane traffic diversion system should soon be in place “that will help alleviate the traffic congestion outside The Pearl Qatar.”