The failed highways of the CDR

All of the highways built post-war by the Council for Development and Reconstrution (CDR) are today yet again completely flooded, without any proper water evacuation.

The CDR is incapable of building proper highways. With this level of incompetence, how can the CDR be trusted to produce strategies and policies? How can the CDR be trusted when they say the Fouad Boutros highway is necessary?

The CDR and Municipality want to convince us that the Fouad Boutros highway is virtuous and that the tens of world-renowned urban experts who oppose it are wrong – and yet are incapable of producing one decent infrastructure.

Their highway designs are flawed, their strategies are flawed, any plan for more highways is flawed, the Fouad Boutros highway is flawed and defunct!


The airport dropoff, flooded – Courtesy of CyberAman (twitter)

Joumana Haidar

The Khaldeh highway, flooded – Courtesy of Joumana Haidar (twitter)


The Airport tunnel, flooded – Courtesy of HishDaou (Twitter)


The Zalka highway, flooded – Courtesy of Techknowledgic (twitter)


Press Conference at the Tobagi Garden – 26/08/2014

Full video of the press conference which took place at the Tobagi Garden on the 26th of August 2014. This even was part of an ongoing public awareness campaign to inform citizens, stakeholders and the media about the status of the “Fouad Boutros” highway project that is planned to cut across Mar Mkhayel and Hekmeh areas, to chart out ways to counter it and to present the need for alternative projects and new transportation policies.

Jihad Kiame/ Architect– Urban Planner
Urban planning overview and launch of the “Group Declaration” signed by experts

Antoine Atallah / Architect – Urban Designer
Presentation and launch of the website against “Fouad Boutros” Highway Project

Raja Noujaim / legal & administrative officer – Quantity Surveyor & Quality controller
Description and assessment of the project / Alternatives to the project

Mohammad Ayoub / Executive Director of “NAHNOO”

Bus stop or garbage bin?


Bus stop of garbage bin? (Courtesy of Jihad Kiame)

This is the scandalous state of bus stops in Sin el-Fil. Greater Beirut municipalities and the CDR have no policy for public transportation : only neglect. This is the outcome of blind privatization and abdication of public responsibility. The municipalities are good at lip service and grand posturing about future projects, but in reality, this is the status of their accomplishments.

As a result, the use of public transporation in Greater Beirut went from 8% of trips in 1999, to 2% of trips in 2011. (Agence Française de Développement)

There are clearly other priorities than building yet another highway.

New roads are not always the solution


A set of two conferences took place this week under the title “Towards a Roadmap for Sustainable cities in the MENA Region”. At AUB, a panel of experts debated “Which sustainable transportation or smart mobility concepts for the MENa countries?

Composed of Johnny Ojeil, from ARUP, Tarek Rakha, PhD candidate at MIT and Hans-Ulrich Fuhrke, consultant and project director for sustainable urban transport, the panel discussed (among other things) the necessity of public transport V/S new roads and highways.

Some interesting observations were :

  • A 1% increase in the effectiveness of the infrastructure would have 7 times larger impacts on the economic growth than 1% investment in the [construction of new] infrastructure
  • Wider economic benefits can be achieved by shifting users more efficiently between existing infrastructures
  • Investing in alternative modes of transport results in more benefits than expending highways to reduce congestion

What more must be said for the Municipality of Beirut and the CDR to understand they need to change their all-car policies? What more must be done for them to understand that the tens of millions of dollars of public money that would be spent on the Foud Boutros highway, would be much more useful and benefitial for the city if they were spent on the optimisation of the existing infrastructure and on public transport systems?

A summary of the conferences can be found here (in french) :
Repenser sa ville pour réinventer son avenir

« Ces leaders doivent avoir le courage d’aller au-delà des problèmes quotidiens pour initier une véritable révolution, sans se laisser intimider par les groupes d’intérêts. Il faut s’assurer que l’approche envisagée est globale, ajoute-t-il. Si on se limite à une approche sectorielle, les solutions resteront lacunaires. Cette approche intégrée est plus efficace qu’une série de solutions qui peuvent se révéler contradictoires.”
Nicola Da Schio, Specialiste en environnement urbain, Science Po Paris

« Il faut tout d’abord un transport public décent, efficace, ponctuel et peu polluant. Il serait utile de rendre l’entrée des voitures individuelles dans la ville plus difficile. Beaucoup de zones seraient favorisées si elles devenaient piétonnes, notamment les centres-villes.”
Nadim Farjallah, directeur de recherche, Institut Issam Fares

It would have been great to hear Dr. Bilal Hamad, mayor of Beirut, teacher at AUB, or Elie Helou, project manager at the CDR, defend in front of such a panel an obsolete highway cutting right through the existing fabric of central Beirut…