The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) began construc- tion on the R816-million improve- ment project on the N2/M41 Mount Edgecombe interchange north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), last month.
The contractor is establishing the site office and laboratory and a major electrical line is being relocated.
The project will result in the interchange being upgraded to a four-level free-flow configuration to ease congestion in the area.
The construction is jointly funded by Sanral and the KZN Department of Transport and the upgrade will take about three years to complete.
The civil construction is being undertaken by Italian construction company CMC di Ravenna, with construction being supervised by engineering and development consultant Smec South Africa.
Sanral’s contract with CMC di Ravenna stipulates minimum targets for employment from within the eThekwini municipality region, as well as for small contractors and businesses from KZN.
Sanral communications GM Vusi Mona says the proposed interchange facility will provide two additional lanes on each of the major roads and the project also includes the implementation of directional ramps, which will eliminate the need for controlled signalisation, ensuring the free flow of traffic in all directions.
“To achieve this, two bridges will be constructed on the directional ramps. One of these will be 26 m high and 947 m long, which will make it the longest incrementally launched bridge in South Africa. The second bridge will be 18 m high and 443 m long. It will be a free-flow system interchange, which is similar to how the EB Cloete spaghetti junction, in Durban, currently operates,” he states.
The upgrades have become necessary, owing to the expan- sion of the uMhlanga, La Lucia Ridge and the anticipated expan- sion of the Cornubia develop- ment. The interchange is oper- ating at capacity, with vehicles backing up on the M41 and the N2 during peak hours.
As a result, motorists experience severe delays. The existing interchange, therefore, requires a major upgrade to improve the flow to and from the N2 and the M41 to the supporting road network.
An additional 40 000 vehicles enter or leave the N2 from the M41 daily, resulting in a substantial queue of vehicles during the day, Mona reveals.
During construction, traffic will be accommodated on temporarily widened sections but major disruptions can, unfortunately, not be prevented, owing to limited space, tighter corners and reduced lane widths, which negatively affect traffic flow.
Mona urges motorists to be aware of the construction when travelling, to be observant of the advance warning signs and lane closures, and to practise caution when using this stretch of road while the upgrade is under way.
He says this may be the main challenge during the project, as frustration is an unfortunate by-product of improving roads.
“Motorists’ frustration will be addressed through education, temporary engineering, persuasion and enforcement. We will have notice boards to inform motorists where construction is taking place. We have issued a media release to encourage motor- ists to take note of the construc- tion work when planning their trips and to observe the advance warning signs and lane closures when travelling through the construction work zones,” Mona says.
Coastal Highway Project
Sanral has been granted approval to expand and upgrade the N2 to Durban, which comprises about 560 km between the N2 Gonubie interchange, near East London, in the Eastern Cape, and the N2 Isipingo interchange, south of Durban.
Sanral is tasked with finalising the land acquisition and deciding on the funding model to be used.
The project is expected to cost about R11.5-billion and construction of key aspects of the project will start within 9 to 12 months of government’s final approval of the funding and roll-out strategy, after which the project is expected to take between 48 and 52 months.
Mona says Sanral has determined that the Wild Coast region has been identified as an area for strategic economic development, in accordance with government’s Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) strategy.
“The Wild Coast SDI identified the provision of a major road, such as the proposed toll road, as an important catalyst for the achievement of its objec- tives, since it would enhance access to the region and facilitate the development of the area’s eco-tourism potential. The existing N2 south of Mthatha requires major upgrades to fulfil its function as a primary national road between economic centres and to cater for rapidly growing traffic volumes,” he explains.
The existing R61 and the N2 in KZN, between Port Edward and Durban, require similar upgrading, although not to the same extent as the other sections forming part of the proposed toll highway. However, the expected and current traffic growth along the Port Edward–Durban section requires that such upgrades be undertaken sooner rather than later.
The proposed N2 Wild Coast toll highway aims to provide an improved, shorter and safer road link from KZN to the Eastern Cape and to the Western Cape. Mona says a shorter, more effi- cient transport route is regarded as an improvement to the national road network and is considered to be of strategic importance to the region and the country.
He adds that such a national road or ‘spine’ is considered a provider of the necessary links and motivation to improve the secondary and local networks, while facilitating sustainable economic growth along the entire corridor.
“Sanral has played an integral role in spearheading the N2 extension project after commissioning an environmental-impact assessment (EIA). Now that we have buy-in from the community, we can move forward with this project, which will add to our already world-class national road network,” Mona says.
Further, he notes that the EIA documentation and other socioeconomic and assessment studies have shown overwhelming support and a need for the N2 Wild Coast toll-highway project, particularly in relation to the Eastern Cape and its Pondoland region. As a result of the project, there will also be tremendous development and social benefits for KZN, adds Mona.
Accessing the greenfield portion of the N2 Wild Coast toll-highway project is severely limited by the rugged terrain, the large and numerous incised gorges that must either be circumvented or crossed and the severely limited access to Pondoland.
However, Sanral is confident that such challenges will be overcome through the careful planning of resources and through its upgrading of existing accesses and provision for new ones as required.
“Such additional infrastructure will not only help the local populace in the short term but will also benefit future generations. “Further, industrial, office and residential accommodation will also be required for the engineering and construction teams. Such facilities will be designed, constructed and located to serve tourism and business facilities once construction is completed,” Mona concludes.