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Agreement Reached for Red Sea Bridge

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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Two nations have consented to build a historic bridge connecting not only their two countries but also two continents.

If the plans come to fruition, the new bridge would connect Saudi Arabia and Egypt through a crossing over the Red Sea.

Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdelaziz made the announcement Friday (April 8) during what was described as a “rare” visit to Egypt, United Press International reported.

"This historic step to connect the two continents, Africa and Asia, is a qualitative transformation that will increase trade between the two continents to unprecedented levels," he said.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has suggested the structure be named after the Saudi king, calling it the “King Salman bin Abdel-Aziz Bridge.”

“The bridge will be an international port for the promising projects of both countries,” the king said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. “It will be essential for travelers, pilgrims, Umrah [pilgrimage] performers, and tourists. It will also create more employment opportunities for the people of the region.”

A Project Revisited

While the plan is still in the early stages, making details scarce, speculation suggests the bridge would be built where the waterway is narrowest between the two countries, Al Jazeera reported Saturday (April 9).

That would make for a 10-mile-long bridge connecting Nabq, just north of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and Ras Alsheikh Hamid, in Saudi Arabia.

This is not the first time such a span has been suggested, the media agency noted. Earlier proposals for a causeway included a railway line that would run alongside the road lanes, thereby integrating both countries’ proposed high-speed railway systems.

The earlier plan called for a 20-mile route across the Tiran Strait, at the entrance of the Red Sea Gulf of Aqaba, which would allow for a mere 20-minute commute between the two countries.

Based on these earlier proposals, the project is anticipated to cost between $3 billion and $4 billion.

Al Jazeera

An earlier plan called for a 20-mile route across the Tiran Strait, at the entrance of the Red Sea Gulf of Aqaba, which would allow for a mere 20-minute commute between the two countries.

As part of the deal, Saudi Arabia will reportedly finance Egypt's oil necessities for five years, the news agency said.

The agreement was expected to be signed Saturday evening.

Earlier Vision and Obstacles

According to travel media site Atlas Obscura, an alliance headed by Tarek bin Laden, partnering with the government of Djibouti, sought to build a bridge across the Bab-el-Mandeb strait in 2008.

Named the Bridge of Horns, the structure was promoted as having the world's largest suspension span (at 2.5 miles), although still just over 4 miles of being the world’s longest bridge, the site said.

Critics reportedly called attention to what were deemed to be excessive costs for the project, estimated to range anywhere from $25 million to $75 million. The Economist reported that the whole project, which was to include two new cities at each end as well, would cost more than $200 billion, Atlas Obscura noted.

Moreover, the proposed bridge location, said to be sited in the middle of an earthquake zone, drew criticism and concern. Likewise, project participation by arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin was expected to feed into conspiracy theories among Arabs, The Economist claimed.

After the initial phase of the project was delayed in 2011, the venture never continued, the travel site said.

Speculation suggests that these concerns—location, cost and timeline—could also pose problems for the latest Red Sea bridge proposal.

Additional Investments

After the Saudi king’s announcement, representatives of both countries were said to have signed 17 investment deals and memorandums of understanding, The Guardian reported.

According to an Egyptian official, the total deals would amount to about $1.7 billion and included an agreement to build a university and homes in South Sinai, as well as a a power plant.

The two countries are also to expected sign additional energy and development deals worth $20 billion in coming days, The National reported.



Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bridges; Construction; Contracts; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail; Transportation

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