Al Mafraq-Al Ghuwiafat International Highway Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A major upgrade for the Mafraq-Ghuweifat highway — the main route that connects the UAE to Saudi Arabia — has recently been completed, and is now open to vehicular traffic.

The Dh5.3 billion upgrade covered a 246-kilometre stretch of the 327-kilometre highway, and should ease common problems like congestion and weather-related hazards for motorists, transport officials said during a press tour of the new highway on Sunday.

“This is the most commonly used route by freight traffic for coming into, and leaving, the UAE. The upgrade should ease transport and trade along the route and allow for geographical, economic and social integration at the regional level,” said Khalid Hashem, executive director of land transport at Abu Dhabi emirate’s transport sector regulator, the Department of Transport.

Al Mafraq-Al Ghuwiafat International Highway. (Photo: Clint Egbert/Gulf News)

The project, which commenced in March 2014, was undertaken by the Department in collaboration with public sector facilities management company, Musanada. It comprised of six construction packages, and included construction from Mafraq area in Abu Dhabi up to the UAE-Saudi Arabia border in Ghuweifat.

One of the major new improvements was an increase in the number of lanes in either direction. The two-lane carriageways are now at least three-lane wide over the 64-kilometre stretch from Barakah to Ghuweifat, and up to four lanes wide in the 182-kilometre that spans from Mafraq to Baynounah Forests. Each lane can accommodate a maximum of 2,500 vehicles per hour.

“This increase in capacity should help ease the congestion during peak morning hours,” another Department official told Gulf News during the tour.

The works were carried out in six construction packages, and also included the set-up of 16 new interchanges. Existing interchanges at Mafraq, Hameem, Abu Al Abyad and Madinat Zayed were also enhanced.

At the same time, the highway is now fully lit with LED lamps, which will help reduce fog-related risks. The overall asphalt level of the road has also been raised, and its drainage network improved, in order to prevent water accumulation.

In addition to the construction of lay-bys and hard shoulders for road users, the upgraded highway also has petrol stations in two new locations, namely near Barakah and Mirfa.

Camel underpasses have also been set up near Al Silaa and Ghuweifat so that farmers and camel owners can ensure the safe passage of camels.

The transport official added that more construction is currently underway to further enhance the UAE’s road network.

“Another 50-kilometre stretch is being constructed between Madinat Zayed and Mirfa, and a one-year project will enhance the existing Hameem-Muqattarah road,” he said.