Muscat: When the accident cases were first reported at Al Irfan Roundabout, located near the airport, people working nearby blamed the reckless drivers of heavy vehicles as the sides of the road were still under construction.
When the construction ended and the accidents continued, seemingly focused in one particular area of the roundabout — on the Muscat Express Road leading to the airport — they reconsidered the theory and decided they had been wrong.
"There have been at least 50 accidents on the roundabout in the last few months. Thirty-five of them involved heavy vehicles ramming into other vehicles," said Ali Al Bahri, a teacher working nearby. He added that there are five colleges in the area that continually put the lives of students and passersby at risk.
The roundabout is a busy intersection and traffic snarls are a regular feature. Vehicles are sometimes backed up for a block due to accidents, and they try to avoid the right-hand lane where trucks pass. The road is not the same as it used to be when it was a traditional road without the facilities it has today, especially since it connects Muscat Airport with Muscat Express Road, stated Al Bahri.
Traffic at the accident-prone intersection is almost as heavy as it was at the old airport roundabout. There have been between three and six crashes per week during the last few months, making this one of the most accident-prone intersections. Injuries were reported in many of the recent accidents, including some fatalities.
"There is quite a bit of debate about what's causing these accidents," said Al Bahri. As a result of the high accident rate and increasing complaints from motorists, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) studied the roundabout to determine the source of the numerous accidents, a trusted source at the ROP informed Times of Oman.
"There is a technical fault in the roundabout design. The slope is a little steep, and there is a very tight turn toward the roundabout. The ROP had previously raised a report to the Muscat Municipality to rectify the design fault," noted the officer. He added that the ROP had not received any response from the municipality, even though the ROP believes there should have been an immediate response.
On the other hand, Ibrahim Al Hassani, working with the Public Relations department at the Muscat Municipality, informed reporters that he had held a discussion with the concerned engineers at the municipality, which has resulted in an upcoming project to perform the necessary maintenance on this particular roundabout. "The municipality is working on creating a solution for the roundabout since it has witnessed many accidents, and we expect he work to begin as soon as possible," remarked Al Hsani.
Employees of nearby companies have also expressed their concern over the high number of accidents since some of them were victims of such accidents involving heavy vehicles.
"The lane leading from Muscat Express Road is a design mess," said Al Salmi, who works near the roundabout. He added that the slope ahead of the roundabout makes it difficult for vehicles to stop, especially if they are heavy vehicles, leading them to crash into the many vehicles being driven more slowly. "Many have lost their lives under the wheels of these trucks. We can't blame the drivers alone. The officials should share the blame," emphasised Al Salmi, while adding that the roundabout should be raised slightly to reduce the incline of the slope.
"You can talk to people who see it both ways. Some see the roundabout as confusing, and others do not see it as a big deal, but they are still blaming the motorists," Al Bahri noted.
This leaves one to question how a major roundabout that connects the country's airport to the main road in Muscat, Muscat Express Road, could have been opened to the public without any agreement on the design between the police and the municipality.