Saturday, March 29, 2008


I've seen the bridge and the bridge is long, and they built it high and they built it strong. Strong enough to hold the weight of time. Long enough to leave some of us behind. And every one of us has to face that day. Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away?
I listen to these words often as I travel up and down SZR going to work and returning home. While the words are sung by Elton John the image they conjure up is that of the planned Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing, the sixth bridge to span Dubai's Creek and a bridge destined to become one of the most striking landmarks in Dubai.

It seems today that Dubai is a city where a new bridge opening is announced every four months. Within the past year or two we've had the widening of Makhtoum Bridge, the construction of the Floating Bridge, the opening of the Business Bay Bridge, the re-construction of Garhoud Bridge and now the announcement of the 6th crossing, the grandest of them all. Each of these new bridges or widening projects has represented a major construction feat in and of itself, the Business Bay crossing, for example, comprising 13 lanes.

The Floating Bridge is also quite remarkable. It seems to have been put together in about a year's time, has 6 lanes and actually floats on the the water's surface while being joined to the shore on either side. A span is even opened at night to allow boats to pass.

$100 a barrel of oil buys plenty of toys (not to mention bombs, madrassahs, and board seats in US companies).

I.e. just one more extravagance in oil-rich Dubai. This derisive comment appears following an online post extolling the virtues of the new bridge. While Dubai could hardly be any further removed from the kind of radicalism that produces the bombs of terrorists, its wealth, only partly attributable to oil, is certainly financing its multitude of building and infrastructure projects. That, however, should not detract from what will no doubt be an architectural and engineering wonder to add to Dubai's ever futuristic cityscape. If built to plan, the bridge should rank as one of Dubai's most recognizable and appealing landmarks, only second to its new 160+ story Burj Dubai tower (U/C) and ahead of the its iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel .

It will have 12 lanes and a dual metro track running through its center. Its length will be 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) including 2 arched spans. The larger of these spans will be 205 meters in height and 667 meters in width, to make this bridge the largest arch bridge in the world. Tribute should go to the bridge's designers as the render depicts the most magnificent of structures (details). As the melodic percussive notes in the Elton John ballad lead to the opening verse, "I've seen the bridge, and the bridge is long...," the beautiful image of the Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing comes to mind as a new symbol for Dubai.

It will be Dubai's Brooklyn Bridge or Golden Gate. Indeed, it will become Dubai's Sydney Harbor Bridge with an opera house to boot. The entire surrounding area, like so many parts of Dubai, is scheduled for a total transformation, to include a massive Sydney style opera house and a collection of dancing towers, the tallest to rise some 100 stories.

Where’s [sic] the environmental impact statements for the, carbon footprint, snail darter, spotted owls and all the other must haves before projects like this can be started?

Another commenter raises this interesting question. One reason Dubai is getting built on such a massive scale is that the rulers, who authorize such projects, may do so by fiat. This, however, does not mean environmental impact studies are not done. Studies are done and some recommendations are followed, especially now as Dubai appears more and more prominently on the radar of international observers. That said, the site of this construction is on the edge of a large bird sanctuary, extremely rare in a region covered with harsh desert terrain. The government asserts that it will carry out these feats of construction without destroying this amazing natural habitat. Time will tell.

The time frame for construction, according to New York architecture firm FXFowle which designed the bridge, is from the present till early 2013. By that time three or more metro lines will have been constructed, along with additional Creek crossings and the extension of the Creek itself to the Arabian Gulf, thus turning most of central Dubai into a virtual island.

The song's lyrical bridge takes on a cautionary tone,
And the bridge it shines, all cold hard iron saying, "Come and risk it all, or die trying."
And the online commenter waxes, "If the current 'Disneylandia' (to use a non-word) over Dubai ends, the city will end up being one of the world's prettiest failures."

No, Dubai won't fail--oil prices are not going to fall. Dubai, in fact, prospers because, rather than in spite, of the turmoil that afflicts nearby countries. Dubai is the safe haven that the wealthy, with their wealth, flock to. Adverse conditions in distant economies as well, mean that the oil riches of surrounding emirates and states get parked in Dubai's flourishing markets--primarily real estate.


IYM said...

Nice post b.d, and nice blog as well..

Looking at the bridge pictures; it just reminded me of one thing.. a nightmare that I always have from time to time.. going up and down such a huge bridge with my family; surrounded by a vast ocean..

I don't know if I'll ever be able to drive through it once it's all ready !

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