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Orbital highway and truck route

Ashghal/Facebook

Orbital highway and truck route

The first lanes in the northern stretch of Qatar’s new, multibillion-riyal Orbital Highway will open to traffic by the end of 2017, Ashghal has said.

Slightly behind its previous target of Q2-Q3 2017, the new bypass will ultimately have the capacity to take 8,000 vehicles an hour across seven lanes in each direction when it fully opens.

It will have two lanes in each direction dedicated to trucks, which will be segregated from the rest of the traffic.

These will be able to manage up to 3,000 heavy goods vehicles an hour, the public works authority said in a statement as the Minister of Municipality and Environment, Mohamed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi, toured some of the construction sites this week.

Where it goes

The highway, which is being constructed in four stages, connects Mesaieed and the new Hamad Port to the south of Doha with Al Rayyan in the west and Ras Laffan and Al Khor in northern Qatar.

Orbital highway and truck route map

Ashghal/Facebook

Orbital highway and truck route map

Once complete, it should significantly reduce the number of trucks using routes in the residential districts of Al Wakrah, western Doha and Al Khor, easing traffic congestion in these areas, Ashghal said.

A total of 22 interchanges, including bridges and underpasses, will be built along the length of the dual carriageway connecting with other artery roads including the Salwa Road, the East-West corridor, Dukhan Highway and the Al Shamal Road.

Storm water drains and camel underpasses will be incorporated and treated sewage effluent will be used to irrigate the landscaping.

The northern section of the new route (contracts 2 and 4) run 140 km from north of the Salwa Road junction via the Dukhan Road to Al Khor, with a spur running to the North Relief Road. In total it incorporates 13, multi-level interchanges.

Orbital highway and truck route

Ashghal/Facebook

Orbital highway and truck route

“The main lanes of contracts two and four will be open to traffic by the end of 2017,” Ashghal said, although did not give a date for the complete opening of the entire route.

Work started in January 2014 and previous estimates put the finishing date for the whole route at Q3 2017, according to the organization’s website.

Qatar’s roads are becoming increasingly crowded as the population continues to grow and looming deadlines on the country’s multiple construction and infrastructure projects mean more trucks around town.

Authorities have previously introduced initiatives such as banning trucks from parking in the city, and preventing them from using central roads during Ramadan, for example.

While the works to the main route are underway, Ashghal opened a temporary truck route in December 2014 to take some of the pressure off other roads. The 41km route connects Salwa Road to Lusail and has two lanes in each direction.

Thoughts?

Tiger on the loose

Supplied

Tiger on the loose

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Footage of a tiger cub wandering through traffic on a Qatar highway has provided an unusual diversion for motorists battling with their commute late this morning.

A 20-second film clip and still photographs showing a confused looking cub on the Doha Expressway have already been widely shared on social media.

The tiger, which has a broken chain attached to its collar and appears to be an escaped pet, can be seen running through lines of stopped vehicles, seemingly trying to find a way off the road.

On Twitter, the Ministry of Interior has said it is following up on reports of the loose tiger.

Translation: We assure everyone that the authorities are following what has been circulating (on social media) regarding a tiger being seen in specific areas of the country.

One of a series of the photographs then shows a man in white thobe and cap holding the tiger’s chain, seemingly having captured it.

Video shared by Al Watan says the same.

Although illegal, is not uncommon for residents to keep wild animals such as tigers, lions and cheetahs as pets in Qatar.

Last March the government appealed for the owners of an escaped cheetah cub, which was found in the Al Sakhama area north of Doha.

Despite repeated warnings of the dangers about this practice from the authorities including the Ministry of Interior, practical enforcement of these regulations is patchy.

The perpetrator could face a maximum of six months in prison and a fine ranging from QR1,000 to QR10,000 under Qatari law.

UPDATE | March 9, 2016:

The Ministry of Interior said late last night that the owner of the cheetah now faces legal proceedings:

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Abubacker Sithikh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal is looking for companies to give one of the country’s busiest highways a high-tech overhaul.

The changes include placing variable speed limits on February 22nd Street, the name for part of the expressway which runs between D-Ring and Al-Shamal roads, that can be adjusted according to traffic conditions to improve safety, according to an Ashghal tender document for an “intelligent transportation system” operator.

While few details are included in the document, variable speed limits are used in other jurisdictions, such as Washington State in the US, to let motorists know of congestion up ahead that may require a change in speed.

For illustrative purposes only.

Washington State Department of Transportation / Flickr

For illustrative purposes only.

The objective is to prevent motorists from being forced to slam on their brakes as they come up behind congestion. Instead, encouraging drivers to slow down creates a more consistent traffic flow and reduces the risk of rear-end collisions, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute in the US:

Variable speed limits help reduce congestion by encouraging motorists to all drive at a consistent speed, a traffic consultant told Doha News.

“There’s no point in having everyone rush to join the queue,” he said. “Everyone moves continuously.”

Expressway challenges

Congestion has steadily grown on the expressway since it opened to traffic in 2010 and is regularly the scene of serious collisions.

New 80km/hour speed limit on expressway.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

New 80km/hour speed limit on expressway.

Over the last year, local traffic officials have tinkered with the speed limit signage on the Doha expressway, starting with an unannounced overnight change from 100 km/h to 80 km/h in January.

At the time, a Traffic Department official was quoted as saying the change was a trial to see if slower speeds would ease congestion and reduce the number of collisions on the road.

Despite claiming that the number of crashes had decreased, traffic department officials said in early August that the speed limit signage would be restored to 100 km/h. However, signs still show the limit at 80 km/h.

The Texas A&M report said traffic authorities need to properly communicate how the system works and its purpose, in order to encourage motorists to comply:

“Drivers must be able to understand why the speed limit is being reduced and that the reason is legitimate.”

Ashghal’s requirements for would-be contractors include technology that enables variable speed limits to be enforced.

The Ministry of Interior has recently extended its use of radar cameras to catch speeders and motorists who pass on the right, which has coincided with a record number of radar-related offences recorded by authorities.

‘Smart’ lights

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) broadly refer to the use of data collected from vehicles, roads and intersections to more efficiently manage the flow of traffic.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lubaib Gazir/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Currently, some 70 intersections across the country are equipped with “smart” traffic lights that use sensors to judge the volume of traffic on the roads at any given moment and alter the phasing of the red and green lights accordingly.

Traffic Department officials were quoted as saying in August that all intersections in Qatar would be equipped with the technology, but gave no timeline for the upgrade.

Authorities have said ITS will be a part of all future transportation projects.

“No project will go for tender unless there is ITS infrastructure on it,” Yousef Al Emadi, Ashghal’s manager of roads operations and maintenance, recently told The Edge magazine.

Other components of the February 22nd Street project include:

  • Automatic incident detection: Technology identify, locate and clear debris and vehicles involved in collisions from the road using CCTV cameras, vehicle detectors and software;
  • Hard-shoulder technology: Enable the use of the hard-shoulder to improve traffic flow during incidents;
  • Vehicle type restrictions: Technology to enforce removal of slow-moving, large vehicles during the period of high-volume traffic by using digital signage to instruct commercial vehicles to take alternative routes;
  • Traffic signal timing improvements and ramp meters: Technology to improve the movement of traffic on and off February 22 Street;
  • Roadway infrastructure protection: Technology to detect and re-route overly tall or heavy vehicles that would otherwise damage infrastructure; and
  • Electronic emergency gates: Devices in the center median that can be raised by police to divert traffic onto the opposite lanes during serious incidents.

Ashghal is restricting the February 22nd Street project to Qatari companies and joint ventures. Contractors have until Dec. 8 to respond.

Once a contract is awarded, construction is expected to be completed within 300 days.

Thoughts?