The Al Shindagha Tunnel in Dubai is four decades old. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Shindagha tunnel, the second oldest crossing on Dubai Creek between Deira and Bur Dubai, is set to be replaced soon, Gulf News has learnt.

The iconic tunnel, which is around 40 years old, is set to be replaced by a multi-lane bridge in the next few years, an official at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) who is privy to the plans told Gulf News.

“The tunnel’s life is 50 years and it is already 40 years old. There are technologies available to enhance the life of the tunnel but these are not feasible right now,” said a senior RTA official.

With a stringent maintenance regime currently in place, the life of the tunnel could be extended by a maximum of another 20 years.

The crossing, one of the five across the Dubai Creek and the only one that links the two oldest business districts of Dubai, is regularly maintained but, according to the official, the maintenance is very expensive. Also, he said, the new bridge will increase the capacity.

“Currently, Shindagha Tunnel is one of the busiest crossings and we see a lot of traffic on both ends of the tunnel due to a bottleneck. A multi-lane bridge will solve the problem. Besides, it’s not easy to maintain the tunnel and it is very expensive. We considered various options, which included improving the tunnel and giving it a few more years. We also considered building another set of tunnels to replace the existing ones, but building the tunnels is three times more expensive than building a bridge,” said the official.

The RTA official said that redeveloping the Shindagha crossing is among the top priorities of RTA.

He added that a team of RTA engineers is currently studying the design and other details of the project, which is expected to be finalised by early next year.

“Various designs and options are being studied for the project and one of the options being considered is a suspension bridge but nothing has been finalised yet. The project is set to be announced by early next year and tenders will be opened soon after. We hope to have the new Shindagha crossing in the next three to four years,” he added.

The crossing is likely to have four to six lanes in each direction, which will get rid of the bottleneck that is currently seen in the vicinity.

“One of the main objectives is to get rid of the bottleneck at Shindagha that is causing huge tailbacks on either side during morning and evening rush hours,” he said.

Shindagha tunnel is currently one of the busiest crossings on the Creek with more than 110,000 vehicles plying through it daily. It acts as a vital link for the thousands of residents and business people who shuttle between the business districts of Al Ras and Bur Dubai several times daily.

“When it was built, it played a huge role in bringing the two sides of the Creek together and businesses on either side benefited immensely after the tunnel opened,” said Maitha Bin Udai, CEO of RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency.

However, over the years, the immense development in the vicinity and the growing traffic has continued to press for the redevelopment of the crossing.

A pedestrian tunnel linking the two sides was also built alongside the Shindagha tunnel, which is still used by many people. However, it is not clear whether the pedestrian tunnel will also be replaced.