As temperatures in Egypt’s Cairo soared to their summer time highs in tandem with the educational 12 months’s finish and Eid el-Adha holidays, fleets of Cairenes have launched into their annual migration to flee the capital’s warmth, heading in direction of gated compounds that line its northwestern Mediterranean Sea shores, the place cooler breezes blow over pristine seashores.
Their hours-long commute to the North Coast, or El-Sahel, takes them alongside a newly-modified freeway that has sparked current controversy for its complicated structure, which includes 9 “maze-like” suspended roundabouts and two-way service roads.
Following directions by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, renovations performed to the Alexandria-Matrouh Freeway – extra generally known as El-Sahel Highway – have been designed to minimise highway collisions which have killed hundreds, and improve site visitors capability.
“Earlier than the improve, the previous El-Sahel highway was once one of the crucial harmful roads in Egypt, but remained one of the crucial frequented,” a supply on the Arab Contractors, the state building large concerned in lots of the authorities’s infrastructure initiatives, informed Al Jazeera.
But, many customers of the revamped highway have been fast to level out that its “flawed” design may doubtlessly result in it defying its targets. Social media customers shared movies of automobiles coming face-to-face with different automobiles in a gridlock on the flyovers as drivers struggled to determine the place their exit was.
“It felt completely chaotic,” mentioned Sandy El-Nouby, 26, a vacationer who not too long ago travelled the freeway. “There have been little to no course indicators alongside the highway. For somebody driving there for the primary time after the renovations, I drove 14 further kilometres [8.7 miles] as a result of I didn’t know which sub-road or bridge goes the place,” she mentioned, describing the journey as traumatic.
The criticism has reached el-Sisi. On the top of the web clamour, the nation’s Minister of Transportation Kamel El-Wazir appeared on Egyptian tv to say a committee had reviewed the failings of the renovated freeway on the behest of the president, and was understanding an answer.
But, earlier in July, the highway and its problematic roundabouts remained open to streams of beachgoers through the Eid vacation. Though Twitter customers shared unconfirmed studies of vehicular accidents, no crashes have been confirmed formally.
In 2019, the previous El-Sahel highway was dubbed by a pro-government newspaper al-Bawaba as “The New Highway of Demise” after 60 automobile accidents in a span of two months left at the least 20 commuters lifeless.
These accidents have been brought on by “the sporadically-placed U-turns alongside the Alexandria-Matrouh Freeway”, defined the Arab Contractors’ government supervisor who requested to stay nameless, including that, on the top of summer time, vacationers used to take the closest U-turn to entry their coastal village, shifting abruptly from low to high-speed lanes, drastically growing the variety of accidents.
Almost 15,000 automobile accidents occurred alongside the previous highway in 2016, in accordance with the federal government’s official statistics bureau, leaving greater than 5,300 individuals lifeless, and greater than 18,500 injured.
These alarming numbers, in addition to the federal government’s ongoing push to construct new roads throughout the nation, led to renovations to a busy 55km (34-mile) stretch of the 780km (485-mile) freeway.
The works, which started in mid-June, noticed the freeway’s growth from 4 lanes in every course to 10, by way of the addition of two further major lanes, and 4 two-way service roads on both sides. The undertaking additionally launched 9 suspended, multi-lane roundabouts, every with related on and off-ramps, to exchange the normal U-turns.
“This effort goals to restrict and management the factors at which drivers can change lanes, subsequently, actively lowering the speed of accidents,” defined the Arab Contractors supply.
Formally, Egypt has seemed to be doing job in advancing its highway community. Since setting highway infrastructure improvement as a precedence in 2014, 23,500km (14,602 miles) of highway networks have been renovated and prolonged throughout the nation, and Egypt has superior from 118th within the high quality of its roads in 2014’s World Financial Discussion board’s World Aggressive Report back to twenty eighth by 2019.
However the state of affairs surrounding the El-Sahel highway is simply the newest to have led to a debate amongst Egyptians, with some praising the developments and others expressing scepticism.
‘Complicated and tough’
In keeping with 22-year-old vacationer Adham Abousrei, service roads on both aspect of the freeway, which carry probably the most site visitors, now lead “nearly to the entrances of a lot of El-Sahel’s gated communities, inflicting parts of the highway to change into congested at any time when a number of automobiles queue to enter one.”
El Nouby, who travelled the freeway from Cairo, additionally noticed that some drivers abuse the shortage of boundaries in segments of the two-way service roads, taking unlawful U-turns and inflicting additional congestion close to the coastal villages on one aspect of the freeway, and the cafes and eating places on the opposite.
However not everybody thinks the highway is problematic.
“It’s tough, however when you get the grasp of it, it’s a safer improve from the previous highway,” Mohammed Wassef, 26, who travelled to El-Sahel a couple of days in the past, famous.
Kuwait-based Egyptian civil engineer Ahmed Ragab mentioned on his YouTube channel Inventive Engineering that the highway is secure however is ”incompatible with the Egyptian driving tradition, during which drivers by no means hassle to find out about highway etiquette”.
“Along with organising listing indicators, separating the two-way service roads, and growing the variety of police forces patrolling the highway, there should be a widespread consciousness marketing campaign explaining this highway, and others, to most of the people,” he suggested.
Authorities have began taking such measures.
Police have began to patrol the freeway intensively in an try to implement the foundations and assist out individuals struggling.
The Egyptian Normal Administration of Visitors has additionally arrange an operation room to watch drivers on the highway by way of radars, whereas the Ministry of Inside has put out a information on how residents ought to use the roundabout and its bridges.
El-Sisi, in the meantime, mentioned the freeway would solely be totally accomplished in mid-August, and blamed contractors for not making that clear to drivers.
“When a highway is accomplished, this consists of its technical works, the addition of highway indicators and instructions and police forces to control the motion,” el-Sisi defined. “Wait till it’s accomplished and defined to you.”
This text was printed in collaboration with Egab.