Rod El-Farag Axis Bridge (Photo: facebook.com/Egy.Pres.Spokesman/)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday inaugurated mega road Rod El-Farag and the world's widest causeway that are meant to ease traffic congestion in the capital Cairo and link it to the country's far north.
The 600-kilometre road, which partly runs over the River Nile, connects the east and west of the capital with the Cairo-Alexandria desert road. It links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, starting in Zafarana city, and running to Cairo and all the way to the northwest Mediterranean city of Marsa Matrouh.
The project is partly aimed at reducing congestion on the capital's traffic-clogged streets by linking eastern Cairo to the north of the country without passing through the heart of the capital, officials say. It is part of a comprehensive plan to create a national road network spanning over 8,000 km across the country at a cost of EGP 164 billion (approx. $9.6 billion).
The Rod El-Farag road cuts transport time between eastern districts including Nasr City and Heliopolis and western suburbs such as 6 of October, and is estimated to save up to EGP 300 million in car fuel annually, state news agency MENA said. It cuts driving time from the northern district of Shurbra to the Cairo-Alexandria desert road by half to 20 minutes.
The project features the world's widest causeway, 66.8 meters in width. The Tahya Misr Bridge, named after El-Sisi's slogan, has six lanes in each direction and spans 540 meters .
A regional director for the Guinness Book of World Records was present at the opening and awarded the chairmain of the project's developer, the Arab Contractors, a certificate to recognise the structure as the world’s widest suspension bridge.
Talal Omar, Country Manager for Guinness World Records MENA (L) awards a certificate to chairman of the Arab Contractors Mohamed Mohsen (R)
Responding to skeptics, El-Sisi said the timing of the project was crucial for the government to manage to carry it out.
"If we had waited for any reason to launch these projects during [my] second term, I would say we might not have been able to launch them. We would not have had the [money] to cover the cost of these projects," El-Sisi said as he spoke to the audience.
Asked by El-Sisi of the cost of the national road network projects at the current time, an Engineering Authority official said it would increase threefold.
The official referred to the sharp devaluation of the Egyptian pound following a currency flotation in late 2016.
Some 4,000 engineers and workers took part in the Rod El-Farag road project, which was carried out over four years by a consortium of local firms under the supervision of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority.
El-Sisi's government has been carrying out a series of national development projects aimed at boosting economic growth and drawing investors. This includes the New Administrative Capital, a major development located some 45 km east of Cairo.