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Proceedings of the Institution of

Civil Engineers
Bridge Engineering 162
September 2009 Issue BE3
Pages 127135
doi: 10.1680/bren.2009.162 .3.127
Paper 900003
Received 04/01/2009
Accepted 14/04/2009 David Yau James Penny
Keywords: Project Manager, Hyder Technical Director,
bridges/geotechnical engineering/ Consulting Middle East Hyder Consulting
maintenance & inspection Limited, Manama, Hong Kong

Isa Town Gate interchange, Bahrain

D. Yau MSc, MICE, CEng and J. Penny BSc, EurIng, MICE, MIStructE, CEng

The Bahrain Ministry of Works roads directorate and ground obstruction in order to ease congestion during traffic
Hyder Consulting undertook a national transport model management. The alignment was characterised by large radius S
in 2002 in which traffic congestion was identified and curves to maintain the 100 kph design speeds.
future 2021 traffic flows were estimated. Strategic
improvements were identified to improve traffic flow and The underpass was designed as a diaphragm-walled U trough
make allowances for future increases in traffic volumes. with deep walls through a perched aquifer. As a contractors
The Isa Town Gate interchange was an existing round- alternative, ground anchors were proposed and accepted in lieu
about with a five-leg junction in an urban setting with two of the diaphragm-walled solution. The at-ground bridge was
major highways: Sheikh Salman Highway and Al Estiqlal precast pre-tensioned beam and slab with allowances for service
Highway. This paper details the design of the 66 million crossings.
project from concept to tender and also expands on the
construction progress. Execution of the project modified A significant issue was the Isa Town Gate Monument, which was
the existing Isa Town Gate roundabout into a three-level considered as a memorial to the late emir of Bahrain. The chosen
grade-separated interchange. The option chosen was a form of interchange could not detract from the monument.
three-level grade-separated junction with a free-flow
flyover and underpass for the major highway routes. The
existing roundabout was replaced with a complex split- 2. EXISTING LAYOUT
traffic signalised junction accommodating all movements. The existing roundabout is shown in Figure 2 and had five legs
The flyover consisted of two non-parallel curved bridge with two primary highways plus access for Zayad Town and Isa
decks 2?4 km long of glued segmental prestressed Town Gate by way of Baghdad Avenue. The existing congestion
concrete viaducts. An overhead launching gantry was at the roundabout was not acceptable. At peak hours waiting
specified to minimise traffic management. The underpass times were in excess of 20 min and manual traffic control by the
was designed as a diaphragm-walled U trough but was authorities is required to ensure movement of long queues.
later varied to a ground-anchored solution. Construction
commenced in October 2007, and is due for completion The current situation was not sustainable and forecast future
in mid-2010. traffic flows show the situation deteriorating. The people of Isa
Town Gate required better access and the key through move-
ments on Sheikh Salman Highway and Al Estiqlal Highway
1. INTRODUCTION required free flow without delay at the roundabout.
The Isa Town Gate interchange, shown in Figure 1, was a major
project for the Bahrain Ministry of Works roads directorate. It
was designed to alleviate congestion on the existing roundabout 3. NEW LAYOUT
and accommodate future predicted traffic growth up to 2021. Hyder Consulting prepared different traffic models, which
The existing network integrates two major arterial routes the allowed for various arrangements of underpass, viaduct and at-
Sheikh Salman Highway and the Al Estiqlal Highway and grade junction. These options were reviewed and a preferred
provides access from Zayed Town, Isa Town plus the University traffic arrangement was identified and translated into a
of Bahrain campus. A prime objective was zero land take, total horizontal and vertical design proposal. The configurations were
traffic movement routes, plus free flow for the two highways. based on the Kingdom of Bahrains specific design codes based
on British Standards.1,2
The main civil engineering design elements consists of 2?4 km of
elevated viaduct, an 800 m underpass and a complex at-grade The basic composition of the new interchange will comprise
traffic signalised junction. The flyover consists mainly of precast
prestressed concrete segmental box girders with glued epoxy (a) a flyover taking the Al Estiqlal Highway/Sheikh Salman
joints and internal prestressed tendons. The segmental approach Highway route
was employed because of the suitability of the site constraints (b) a underpass taking the Sheikh Salman Highway north/south
where an overhead launching girder could be used to prevent (c) an at-grade junction.

Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny 127
access into Isa Town. Additionally the 190 m radius on the
flyover equated to a 55 kph design speed which was below the
desired value.

Option 2 (Figure 4)
Signalised gyratory with underpass and large 510 m radius
flyover. While the 510 m radius flyover equated to a design
speed of 85 kph, the traffic congestion on Baghdad Avenue

Options 3, 4 and 5 (option 5 shown in Figure 5)

Options 3, 4 and 5 changed the gyratory into a split traffic
signalised junction. Various configurations were chosen to
allow for all permitted movements. Option 3 considered deleting
the Al Estiqlal northbound flyover but this was not acceptable.
Figure 1. Aerial photograph of existing Isa Town Option 4 considered taking the Sheikh Salman northbound
Gate roundabout traffic away from the junction by way of an earlier crossover,
but this added an additional underpass overbridge and extended
the length of the underpass.

Options 1 and 2 including large gyratory roundabouts were


discarded owing to excessive land take. The flyover radius of

h Salm

Madinat Zayed
Isa Town 550 m was chosen to maintain a safe design speed for the Al
Estiqlal Highway/Sheikh Salman Highway. The final choice,
an Hig

option 5, for the at-grade junction was a split-traffic, signalised


Isa Town
Gate junction to permit all movements currently allowed for in the

existing roundabout.

To Zayed Town

Al E
lal h

n High

of Bahrain

Figure 2. Existing layout

This will serve the people of Isa Town and improve the overall
flow of traffic in the area both now and in the future.

Numerous options were considered in the redesign of the Figure 3. Highway concept option 1
existing roundabout. Land take was limited to the existing road
corridor and adjacent municipal land, which all fall within the
possession of Bahrain. Designs to ensure traffic safety and
aesthetics were the key considerations in the final choice of the
layout to be adopted. The important Isa Town Gate Monument
had to be preserved.

Within Bahrain, concept options were presented to the roads
directorate and discussed and a solution agreed. This formed a
recommendation that was presented to senior dignitaries. This
required high-quality presentation graphics and the explanation
of the chosen methods in pictorial form.

Option 1 (Figure 3)
Signalised gyratory roundabout with bifurcated underpass to
connect the Al Estiqlal and Sheikh Salman Highways. The traffic
Figure 4. Highway concept option 2
analysis indicated long queues for Baghdad Avenue, the main

8 Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny
and blocked the view. The decision was taken to remove the
vertical aspect from the bridge and have a horizontal aspect line
only. This is shown in Figure 8.

In reviewing the scheme to date the monument was still

obscured by the bridge. However, at the same time the traffic
model showed congestion at the Baghdad Avenue entrance. As
the monument was a gateway arch form, the width of the arches
limited the number of traffic lanes. The final solution was to
relocate the monument further up Baghdad Avenue. The final
layout selected is as shown in Figure 9.

The viaduct comprises two separate structurally similar con-

structions in parallel, one carrying the northbound carriageway
of Sheikh Salman Highway and the other carrying the south-
bound carriageway. British Standards35 were adopted for the
Figure 5. Highway concept option 5 design with recommended modifications for working in the
Middle East region.6,7
The eastern side of the viaduct comprises a 17-span bridge of
An elevated viaduct will carry the Al Estiqlal Highway as a dual
overall length 885 m containing spans of varying lengths
two-lane carriageway over both Sheikh Salman Highway and
ranging from a maximum of 70 m to a minimum of 35 m. The
Baghdad Avenue. As part of the highway options the bridge
western part of the flyover comprises an 18-span bridge of
form was developed to fit into the highway scheme. The
overall length 905 m containing spans of varying length
gyratory options had a skew bridge form overhead, which
ranging from a maximum of 70 m to a minimum of 25 m.
elongated the main span. This provided a challenge for the
bridge form to be adopted. An initial concept was a cable-stayed
A repeating 50 m span length was initially proposed and
bridge with the pylon located within the roundabout. This is
amendments made to accommodate numerous ground obstruc-
shown in Figure 6.
tions such as utility services and also the complex traffic
signalised junction.
Comments received were that the design was too stark and did
not reflect Bahraini heritage. A pylon based on an Arabic arch The bridge decks comprise a series of precast, reinforced
was developed in preference to the A frames raking legs so as to concrete (RC) twin-cell box segments, shown in Figure 10, post-
be more sympathetic to local heritage. tensioned together in situ by employing a balanced cantilever
method of erection facilitated by a purpose-made launching
In addition the highway development showed the required girder. The precast method of construction is advantageous (a)
bridge deck comprised two separate decks with a new traffic because it is durable and (b) because the majority of the
signalised solution. This required two pylons and presented preparation work can take place in a purpose-made factory in a
issues regarding footing locations. The two pylons presented an controlled environment (shown in Figures 11 and 12). With the
opportunity to balance the aesthetic impact of the bridge existing traffic congestion at the Isa Town Gate roundabout,
elevation view. This is shown in Figure 7. there are intrinsic advantages in precast segmental construction
to avoid extensive obstructions, such as ground staging, at the
However, major consideration was given to the Isa Town Gate roundabout. The segments are initially glued together using an
Monument and the impact of the pylons on the monument. It epoxy bonding agent and stressed together using temporary
was felt that the pylons detracted from the landmark monument prestressing Macalloy bars anchored in temporary pockets in the
top flange, prior to the installation of the permanent tendons.
With the high temperatures in the Middle East, application of the
epoxy bonding agent is conducted quickly by multiple
personnel in temporary cradles slung off the gantry with
overhead canopies for shading.

The varying highway geometry necessitated a varying deck

width from 14 to 16?5 m. To cater for this variation it was agreed
with the client to adopt a twin-cell box section with cantilevers
varying from approximately 1?7 m up to 2?5 m.

The entire deck will contain 733 precast segments typically of

15?6 m overall width and 2?5 m deep. These typical segments
cover the span ranges from 35 to 50 m. For the longer spans up
to 70 m haunched sections have been adopted with segment
Figure 6. Flyover concept a frame pylon with highway concept depths up to 3?75 m. These segments will be manufactured in a
option 1
purpose-made short bed precast facility with steel moulds for

Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny 129
lsa town gate monument

Figure 7. Flyover concept with arabic pylons with highway option 5

the segments. For ease of handling and transporting, the

segments have been detailed as having a nominal length of 2?5
m in plan.

The superstructure and piers consist of concrete that is a class

50/10 design mix with ordinary Portland cement (OPC) and 30%
pulverised fuel ash (PFA) blend chosen for durability. The piles
and pilecaps are class 45/20 with the abutments and retaining
walls class C40/20.

The deck uses a combination of external and internal prestressed

tendons, allowing a reduction in the thickness of the segment
webs. Tendon lengths up to 400 m are used for the external
tendons. The design uses a mix of 12 or 19 no. 15.7 mm
Figure 8. Selected low rise flyover option stress-relieved 7 wire 1770 N/mm2 super strand tendons for the
internal tendons, depending on the span lengths, and 27 strand

lsa town gate monument

Figure 9. Final layout

0 Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny
CL of segment

Width varies (15 600 max.)

800 max. 1680 5320

437 1000 2384 1250 250






1500 1493 1000


Figure 10. Flyover box section (dimensions in mm)

tendons for the continuity tendons. Capping concrete or epoxy interaction with the underpass at piers E5, E6, E7 and W7. To
bonding compound has been specified to protect the exposed reduce the variations in the span arrangements, these piers were
end anchors. located immediately adjacent to, or within, the underpass,
requiring the structural and geometrical interaction of the
The overhead gantry method of construction was chosen to avoid pilecaps and piles to be carefully considered. This included the
large-scale staging at ground level that would obstruct the traffic anticipated displacements of the substructure and the tolerances
flows below. The gantry will operate over the piers and allow the to the installation of the piles, pilecaps and the trough walls.
bridge to be built end to end with minimum interference to the
ground. The gantry was custom-made by NRS AS, a Norwegian To minimise the impact of the interaction between the structures
company specialising in construction equipment, for the erection of at piers E5, E7 and W7, eccentric and skewed pierheads were
the varying curved (around max 510 m radius) spans and to handle adopted to allow standardised arrangements for the bearings and
segments varying in weight from 68 t up to 220 t. An animated diaphragms for the deck. In the case of pier E6, the pier is located
visualisation of the erection method formed part of a presentation within the central median of the underpass with severe
to senior dignitaries and a still image is shown in Figure 13. constraints on its allowable width and alignment. This constraint
in the width and the fact that it is one of the taller columns
The substructure consists of in situ RC abutments and resulted in the pier acting as a slender column with the resulting
intermediate piers on bored, cast in situ concrete piles. The piles additional slender moments effects and the need for particular
are designed as 1?2 m diameter cast in situ bored piles up to a care during erection of the deck cantilevers. Figure 14 demon-
maximum length of approximately 27 m. The piles are designed strates the proposed pier shape against the constructed form.
as predominantly friction piles socketed into limestone rock.
One of the key items in the design for the substructure was the A key item specified included stainless-steel (Gr316) pot

Figure 11. Five-line precast factory facility Figure 12. Precast mould for bridge segments

Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny 131
Figure 13. Overhead gantry for erecting the bridge segments

Figure 14. Flyover pier appearance (proposed against constructed)

bearings supplied by Alga, based in Milan, Italy. Bearing tests 6. THE UNDERPASS
were conducted at their laboratory using their 50 000 kN press The north/south underpass carries the Sheikh Salman Highway
shown in Figure 15. in a dual three-lane carriageway under the Isa Town Gate
junction. The underpass takes the basic form of an open U-
Ancillary bridge elements included proprietary types of bridge shaped RC box approximately 630 m long with an effective
modular movement joints, aluminium vehicle-ontainment width of 26?4 m. An artistic visualisation is shown in Figure 16.
parapets rated at N2W28 and RC vehicle crash barriers.
Associated works included road lighting, BBA-certified bridge The tendered design consisted of diaphragm walls forming the
deck waterproofing and bituminous waterproofing of the buried walls of the underpass, which will extend continuously as a
surfaces of the foundations. sub-foundation below the underside of the underpass base slab.

The existing ground conditions consisted of approximately

12 m of superficial top soil/sand. The ground strata is
predominantly fractured limestone with a perched aquifer

Figure 15. Alga bearing test 19 November 2008 50 000

kN press Figure 16. Artistic visualisation of underpass form

2 Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny
located immediately south of the existing roundabout. The water Baghdad Avenue, leading to Isa Town with Zayed Town on the
table is approximately 45 m below the existing ground level. western side.

The underpass base slab design was predominantly 2 m thick The bridge deck consisted of 32 precast post-tensioned concrete
and the diaphragm walls varied in both depth and thickness to I beams integral with a cast-in-situ RC deck slab. The bridge
maxima of approximately 28 and 1?2 m, respectively, at the deck was designed to be integral with the top of the underpass
deepest section of the underpass where the height extended walls.
above the surface of the base slab to approximately 8?8 m and
the depth continuing below the underside of the base slab was At the underpass approaches the diaphragm walls were to be
approximately 17?3 m. substituted by L-shaped RC walls of varying height reducing to
a maximum of about 2 m, adjacent to the roadway approaching
The design intended that the construction of the diaphragm walls the underpass. As an aesthetic and cosmetic feature, the exposed
would proceed at ground level and facilitate the later construction faces of the diaphragm walls, which form the underpass walls,
of the underpass base slab. The at-grade bridge would be are to be faced with ceramic cladding. The exact colour and
constructed top down, where the bridge would be constructed patterns are flexible and will be chosen later.
first at ground level and excavated below later to form the
underpass. The general arrangement is shown in Figure 17. 7. THE CONTRACTORS ALTERNATIVE
An overbridge spanned in an east/west direction over the With the very recent use of ground anchors in Bahrain, the
underpass and carried the at-grade traffic signalised junction contractor proposed an alternative to the diaphragm-walled
connecting the roads on the eastern side of the underpass with solution based on ground anchors. During the consultants

VGAN 1002 parapet CL Diaphragm beam

integral with
VGAN 1001 Precast beam Deck
precast beam


Cladding wall
25500 carriageway
7500 *

450 1750 3300 3300 3300 600 1000

VCB H/S Lane3 Lane2 Lane1 H/S Median

1200 mm THK.

Pavement surfacing 2000 mm THK.

Base slab


6370 11100 3000 600
varies carriageway footway
1 NO. 100 uPVC
1.5% fall CL 1.5% fall DUCT

Surfacing varies to suit road 600 DI sewer
IB2 profile (min. 130 mm thick) main

15 PSC beams @1051C/C 2330

1000 341

Figure 17. Underpass with at-grade bridge crossing: (a) typical section; (b) section BB

Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny 133
Capping beam C Backfill
Cladding wall
Tiling wall

25.500 Carriageway 25.500 Carriageway

1200 mm thick Soil nail Permanent ground anchor
2000 mm thick
diaphragm wall (p10=1.200 kN/EA, C.T.C 2.0 m)

base slab


Stability of Stability of
Diaphragm wall (retaining wall) Soil nailing
excavation excavation

Structures Diaphragm wall + base slab Structures RCU type Rahmen structure

Resisting of Resisting of Permanent ground anchor +

Diaphragm wall friction + dead weight
uplift force uplift force structure wall friction + dead weight

(a) (b)
Figure 18. Comparison of underpass designs: (a) contract design; (b) new design (dimensions in mm)

design the use of ground anchors was not favoured, owing to the Adjacent to the underpass, a deep wet sump was designed for a
complications for access for long-term maintenance require- 1-in-50-year storm event and a maintenance building built
ments and the aggressive ground conditions. directly over the sump for lift access to the pump. Also included
in the building are the pump control panel and a back-up power
The contractors ground-anchored design allowed a construction generator.
method with a simplified traffic management scheme, and offered
a substantial cost saving to the BHD 41 m contract. A comparison A foul sewage pumping station, located in the same vicinity as
of the contract design and the new design is shown in Figure 18. the storm-water pumping station is also to be designed and built
The new design comprised three rows of ground anchors in the by the contractor. This pumping station is necessary to enable
base slab and temporary soil nails to retain the walls while the diversion of an existing, at-grade, major sewer line which
allowing working room to construct the underpass walls. crosses the line of the proposed underpass. This sewer will
consequently have to be abandoned and replaced.
The maintenance was minimised by having off-site test anchors
nearby for proof loading, and the anchors were custom designed 9. OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
with double sheath protection throughout the length. Extensive The design for the Isa Town Gate interchange was dictated by
co-ordination with the consultant and the Ministry of Works the key requirement of durability. High-quality OPC/PFA
technical approval authority led to the adoption of double- concrete design mixes were specified for the superstructures
sheathed anchors for 750 and 1200 kN ground anchors located with sulfate-resistant cement used in the ground structures. All
in the verges and central reservation of the underpass ground structures were waterproofed using two coats of
carriageway. bitumous tanking. The concrete cover specified was in excess of
the requirements of BS 5400 part 4 with limited crack widths of
To minimise the long-term maintenance requirements, the cw50?15 mm as standard.
ground anchors were designed with a built-in redundancy. The
design load case to be considered was the failure of one anchor A 40 year structural maintenance-free period was requested and
in each base slab unit which should not compromise the overall the maintenance regime over the first 25 years was agreed in
stability of the unit. In addition pre-grouting of the strata was advance. This is shown in Table 1. As a result of this
required to overcome the fractured limestone strata, with a maintenance-free period, stainless steel Gr316 pot bearings were
water table 4 m below ground level, to ensure long-term specified. A study into the long-term maintenance costs showed
durability of the anchor system. that the capital investment of this item was justified over the
long-term periodic maintenance including disruption for access.
The drainage system comprised road gullies with piped feeds RC retaining walls were preferred over reinforced earth
into adjacent surface water drainage ditches or piped into structures. No painting was specified owing to the harsh
infiltration basins. A storm-water pumping station is to be ultraviolet degradation of paint finishes in the region. Continual
designed and built to facilitate drainage of the underpass. access was provided throughout the elevated flyover with

4 Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny
internal lighting and power sockets provided. The underpass awarded at a price of 66 million to an International Contractor
diaphragm-walled solution with gravity slab was maintenance Sungwon joint venture, and its is their first project in Bahrain.
free. Completion is scheduled for mid-2010.

The use of drainage ditches and infiltration basins minimised the ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
problematic blockages by sand and dust, which are pronounced The authors would like to thank the Roads Directorate, Ministry
in the region. The pumping station location was designed to of Works, Kingdom of Bahrain for permission to publish this
ensure access for pump maintenance. paper. Special thanks go to Sungwon JV for site images and NRS
AS for the gantry visualisation.
The Isa Town Gate Monument used glass-fibre-reinforced
9. CONCLUSION 1. HIGHWAYS AGENCY (HA). Design Manual for Roads and Bridges
The design of the Isa Town Gate interchange commenced with Vol. 6 section 2. part 44 (TD39/94) Road Geometry.
the Bahrain National Transport Model 2002 and construction Junctions, Design of Major Interchanges. HA, London.
commenced in October 2007 for a 33 month construction 2. MINISTRY OF WORKS, POWER AND WATER. Bahrain Roads Design
period. The final selected configuration for the interchange was Manual, Issue 1. Ministry of Works, Power and Water,
dictated by the traffic arrangement and a three-level grade Bahrain. 1993.
separated interchange was selected with a complex at-grade 3. BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION (BSI). Steel, Concrete and
traffic signalised junction. This preserved zero land take and Composite Bridges, Codes of Practice for Design of Concrete
permitted all traffic movements. Bridges. BSI London, 1990, BS 5400:1990.
The structural form of the viaduct was selected to avoid conflict Bridges. BSI, 2001, BD37:2001.
with the existing Isa Town Gate Monument. To facilitate the 5. BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION (BSI). Design for Durability.
increased traffic capacity of the junction, the monument was BSI, 2001, BD57:01
relocated further up Baghdad Avenue. 6. BRITISH RESEARCH ESTABLISHMENT (BRE). Concrete in Aggressive
Ground, BRE, Watford, 2005, Special Digest 1.
This project is a successful example of Bahrains project 7. WALKER M. Guide to Construction of Reinforced Concrete in
management originating from the identification of necessary the Arabian Peninsula. Construction Industry Research and
improvements required for 2021 traffic volumes. The design by Information Association, London, 2002, Publication C577,
Hyder Consulting considered different options for the highway Concrete Society Special Publication CS136.
layout to accommodate the traffic volumes and desired design 8. BRITISH STANDARD INSTITUTION (BSI). Road Restraint Systems.
speeds. The structures design implemented the first glued Part 2: Performance Classes, Impact Test Acceptance
segmental prestressed viaduct in Bahrain and a ground- Criteria and Test Methods for Safety Barriers. BSI, London,
anchored underpass. The project was successfully tendered and 1998, BS EN 13172:1998.

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Bridge Engineering 162 Issue BE3 Isa Town Gate interchange Yau N Penny 135