Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the major management issues that impact on mega transportation infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and identify the factors that cause unsuccessful project completions. The paper further seeks to identify the changes that can be made to improve project success. Design/methodology/approach - This is a qualitative study that involved face-to-face interviews with 20 key experienced transportation construction stakeholders who had been involved in a number of different projects in the UAE. This was followed by a focus group discussion involving ten key stakeholders who had been involved in the construction of a mega project - the Dubai Fujairah Highway. Analysis of the interview data was conducted using NVivo. Findings - The findings highlight the complexity involved in managing mega transportation infrastructure projects in the UAE. Multiple stakeholders (government agencies, sponsors/clients, management firms, consultants and contractors) influence the various stages of projects. The need for effective communication, coordination, knowledge sharing and decision making amongst the stakeholders, especially during the planning and design stages, is highlighted as critical. Research limitations/implications - The main limitation is the small numbers interviewed for each stakeholder group. Nevertheless, the sample of interviews provides a good representation of the transport infrastructure construction industry in the UAE. Practical implications - Three major practical implications relate to: improving communication and coordination amongst government departments and key stakeholders to streamline effective knowledge sharing and decision making, leading to successful project outcomes; improving the skills and competencies of professional staff at all levels and subsequently delegating authority to lower levels; and the adoption of global international standards to improve planning, design and construction activities. Originality/value - The paper describes the first study of its kind conducted in the UAE that provides valuable insights with respect to transportation infrastructure project management.