Jalal A. Nafakh

Jalal A. Nafakh

Chief Transportation Planner, Royal Commission for Riyadh City, SAUDI ARABIA
BS CE 1983, MS CE 1984, PhD CE 1987

For his outstanding leadership in transportation innovation, developing and successfully completing large-scale infrastructure projects in Riyadh City, ensuring sustainable growth with seamless, people-centric mobility.

Jalal Nafakh earned back-to-back bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering, then took what he learned at Purdue and, since 1988, has applied it to public service in his home country of Saudi Arabia. Beginning his career as a transportation planner with the Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC), he rose through the ranks to his current position of chief transportation planner.

In this role, he has been involved in the promotion, mobilization and management of major projects for the betterment of RCRC. For the Riyadh 2030 project, he presided over the multi-disciplinary task force formed to shape city policy to ensure sustainable growth. The group’s work produced the most comprehensive urban planning exercise conducted for the City of Riyadh. Building on that success, the Riyadh Mobility Program was hatched with the goal of establishing Riyadh among the world’s top 10 cities offering efficient, people-centric multi-modal mobility through future EV/AV deployment, a sustainable mobility ecosystem, and integrated governance.

For the nearly-complete Riyadh Metro Project, Nafakh evaluated state-of-the-art technologies, spatial options, and financial opportunities and managed the preliminary design and tendering process and mobilized the construction management teams. It became one of the largest public transportation projects in the world, consisting of 110 miles of driverless metro lines, 84 stations, and 23 park and ride facilities, all complemented by a citywide comprehensive bus system with total value of $30 billion.

Other career successes include the forthcoming King Salman Park, which will be among the largest city parks worldwide. The facility will include a royal art complex, national theater, opera house, art academics, museums, and galleries. It is accessible via six main roads, five metro stations, and 10 bus depots. Through the Green Riyadh Project, 7.5 million trees will be planted in gardens, parks, mosques, schools, and healthcare facilities along the city’s major roads, parking lots, and valleys. This endeavor is expected to improve air quality, reduce the average ambient temperature, and increase the city’s per capita green space from 1.7 to 28 square meters. In addition, thanks to the Riyadh Art Project, more than 1,000 pieces of artwork and landmarks created by local and international artists will be installed across the city. The art will cover residential neighborhoods, gardens, parks, squares, metro/bus stations, bridges, city entrances, and tourism destinations.

For each of these projects, Nafakh taps his expertise in transportation innovation. He reviews methodologies and concept designs and makes provisions for new innovative mobility technologies such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS), Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, and micro-mobility devices such as e-bikes and e-scooters.  He credits Purdue’s rigorous curriculum for his success, teaching “self-discipline, hard work and professional ethics.”  

Nafakh subscribes to the philosophy, “Dream big, work hard, stay positive, and enjoy the trip.” He extols the importance of leading with professional integrity, honesty and transparency with an eye for detail. “I believe in the motto, ‘Work every day as if it is your first day on the job,’” he said.

He is a frequent guest speaker at Purdue student organization meetings and classes and was honored with the Civil Engineering Alumni Achievement Award in 2015.

Career Highlights

Staff Researcher, National Institute of Standards and Technology

2011-present Chief Transportation Planner, Royal Commission for Riyadh City, SAUDI ARABIA
2006-2011 Director, Department of Transportation, Royal Commission for Riyadh City, SAUDI ARABIA
1989-2006 Director, Transportation Planning Unit, Royal Commission for Riyadh City, SAUDI ARABIA
1988-1989 Transportation Planner, Royal Commission for Riyadh City, SAUDI ARABIA


1983 BS Civil Engineering, Purdue University
1984 MS Civil Engineering, Purdue University
1987 PhD Civil Engineering, Purdue University