Particularly spectacular are the highways, which boast impressively engineered tunnels and bridges that are a monument to modern road-building techniques. For example, the road through Al-Hada Mountain has cut the distance from Taif to Makkah by about 30 miles.
And the first highway tunnel in the world to use solar photovoltaic technology – converting solar energy into electricity – was built in the hilly Abha region of Asir Province.
The King Fahd Causeway
Perhaps the most spectacular road in the Saudi network is the King Fahd Causeway, which links Saudi Arabia to the island nation of Bahrain.
At 15.5 miles, it is the second longest causeway in the world, an engineering masterpiece that spans long stretches of sea and reclaimed land. Its five bridges rest on 536 concrete pylons, with seven embankments in the Gulf’s shallower water. One embankment is actually a sizable artificial island complete with customs and immigration facilities, a mosque and a restaurant.
Since its completion in 1986, the causeway has streamlined commerce and strengthened the cultural and social bonds between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Under consideration is a second causeway that would link Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The 9.24-mile causeway would run across the Red Sea to connect the Saudi coast with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, linking the eastern and western flanks of the Arab world.
Railroads that Facilitate Industry
Saudi Arabia’s rail network is managed by the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO). In the 1990s, the SRO carried around half a million passengers and nearly two million tons of goods annually.
The network consists of the 449-mile Dammam-Riyadh line from the Arabian Gulf port to the capital that includes stops in Hofuf and Abqaiq. A second, 556-mile Dammam-Riyadh line travels via Haradh, on the edge of the Empty Quarter.
There are plans to extend the railway to the Jubail Industrial City on its eastern end and, eventually, to Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah on its western side. Yet another extension would link Riyadh to the mining areas in the north. This expansion is being carried out by the private sector.