The deadline is fast approaching. The mission has gathered extreme pace. Skilled labourers clad in coloured jackets and helmets toil round the clock under the watchful eyes of expert engineers. Muscat Municipality officials stay in touch with consultants and contractors to track the progress. For the time being, all of them have set their sights on achieving just one target: Open up the major artery of Muscat, the Darsait - Wadi Kabir road where thousands of vehicles flow day and night, by the end of next year.
It was a process set in motion in the middle of 2012 to decongest Muscat's busiest road during peak hours by widening the existing roads, re-modelling its intersections and building new flyovers. Besides, the Muscat Municipality planned to give the five-kilometre stretch a classy look with an aesthetically pleasing design. So the civic body hired reputed companies which have plenty of experts at their disposal, to ensure that the project lived up to its top billing.
The work kicked off in March last year. Sideways were tightly barricaded, traffic restrictions were imposed, signboards stating the obvious (men at work) and appealing the motorists (reduce speed now) were erected at vantage points all along the route. Sections of rugged mountain were shaved off to make ground for laying additional road lanes and some landmarks, including the giant incense burner and six rose-water sprinklers surrounding the Wadi Kabir roundabout, were demolished.
Plumes of dust billowed up from work sites, high-decibel piling operations resonated the air and crawling traffic became the order of the day. Residents, however, learnt to cope up with the situation, day after day, month after month. The project gave wings to their aspirations as everyone has been dreaming of a better tomorrow and hassle-free motoring forever.
Big plan change
In the wake of the project, issues cropped from unexpected quarters, in the form of utility lines. The contractors relocated most of the water pipelines, electricity and telephone cables before beginning the construction. But the work near the Sheraton Oman Hotel signal was halted thanks to the presence of 133 Kilo Volt electrical cables passing underneath the existing road. The stumbling block forced the officials to redraw the plan, so as to avoid damage to the High Tension power cables.
According to the original project plan, a state-of-the-art underpass was to replace the signal at Sheraton, thus ensuring unhindered traffic in both directions. But it was shelved recently after the officials realised the difficulty in constructing an underpass. A Muscat Municipality official told Hi Weekly that a flyover would come up in front of Sheraton instead of the underpass that was earlier marked in the blueprint. "That is the big change in the plan. We wanted an underpass, but the presence of High Tension power cables forced us to redraw the plan. It is difficult to relocate the 133 Kilo Volt cable to another place. That is why we decided to build a flyover instead of an underpass. A flyover needs less space compared to an underpass. Construction of an underpass would have affected more buildings in the area," the official asserted.
The trouble brought the issue of relaying utility cables (electricity, water, telephone) in a thickly populated area in Muscat to the fore. Plenty of cables that lay underneath, indeed, gave the construction companies a huge headache. However, they have successfully relocated most of them without giving much trouble to the public. "It was a huge task. All the utilities were relocated with utmost care. It was done in a systematic way. Essential services were not disrupted in both the sections coming under the project. Section A stretches from Wadi Kabir to Sheraton, while Section B begins from Hassan bin Thabit School and ends at Darsait/Qurum Heights Road," he said.
"We have successfully diverted 90 per cent of the electrical, water, telephone cables in Section A. The remaining work will be completed soon. The area