On the road again

2014-04-08 08:00

Before the Dr Chota Motala Interchange was opened to traffic at the end of 2012, bridal store owner Naseema Ballim spent about 45 minutes each morning travelling the 7km between her home in Pietermaritzburg’s northern Newholmes suburb to her workplace in the city’s downtown central business district.

Getting back to her home in the afternoon peak hour also meant crossing the N3 at the end of Chota Motala Road (formerly Church Street), a thickly congested intersection with further bottlenecks caused by backed-up vehicles inching their way towards the onramps of the freeway to Durban or Johannesburg.

Factor in the truck traffic in and out of Pietermaritzburg, the daily commuters to Northdale and other townships, the taxis from the Greytown-Kranskop-Mooi River rank and the backwash from the Midlands Mall, and her return journey could take almost an hour.

Since the R422?million interchange?–the official launch of which was hosted by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters in February?–?was built as a joint project between the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and the Msunduzi Municipality, Ballim’s daily commute, even at peak hour, takes her, at most, 15 minutes.

“I have to travel at peak hour because of the kind of business I run, and getting to and from work six days a week is much easier now. There is a free flow of traffic, not the bottlenecks we experienced for years,” says Ballim.

She bought her 44-year-old business in Thomas Street in Pietermaritzburg’s Indian business district in 1997.

“The drive was very frustrating and time-consuming. It’s much easier now. The traffic flows freely and it now takes between 12 and 15 minutes. It’s great. The bridge is also aesthetically pleasing, it’s easy on the eye.”

The road was named after the struggle veteran, Dr Chota Motala, who lived and worked in Pietermaritzburg.

To construct the interchange, the existing four-lane bridge over the N3 had to be demolished and rebuilt. It lacked the capacity to handle the estimated 40?400 vehicles which used the road in and out of the city of Pietermaritzburg and its northern suburbs every day.

A new seven-span free-flow directional ramp bridge feeding traffic on to the N3 was added, as was a seven-lane bridge in Chota Motala Road over the freeway on to the Greytown Road through Mountain Rise to Northdale and beyond.

Chota Motala Road was also widened?–?along with a stretch of the N3 to improve traffic flow on to the freeway?–?with a total of 2.8km of pedestrian pavements being built along its length over the N3 to improve pedestrian safety.

The interchange was also equipped with high-mast lighting, which improved safety for ­everyone on the road.

Building the interchange also involved raising the Retief Street railway bridge by 80cm to provide the necessary clearance while allowing the railway line, which crosses the N3, to remain operational.

Taxi driver Musa Nzuza, a member of the Pietermaritzburg Long Distance Taxi Association, says while there is still some congestion along Greytown Road because there are so many private cars on the road, the situation has improved greatly since the interchange opened.

Says Nzuza: “It’s much easier for us now. There are still a lot of private cars, but now things are a lot better. Before, it took us 30 minutes to get over the freeway and past Northdale. Now it’s less than 15 minutes. It is a good thing for our business.”

But the benefits of the project do not end there.

The project employed 132 local labourers, as well as contractors, with the workforce earning about R13.5?million during the project, according to Sanral.

It employed about 33 black-owned SMMEs, to the tune of R98.3?million, with workers being trained in fields ranging from manhole construction to kerb-laying and installation of gabions (cylindrical baskets or containers filled with earth and stones) during the project.

The project has also been good for business, says Northdale resident Nirvana Dookie, an administrative assistant at the Northway Superspar in the Northway Mall, which is situated at the entrance to the suburb.

Says Dookie: “We’re now getting customers from other areas because it’s easy to get into Northdale. Our bread and milk trucks only used to get here at 6.30am because of traffic. They’re now here 30 minutes earlier.

“Access for our other suppliers from the freeway is also easy now. They’re in and out in no time. It’s also much easier for staff from outside Northdale. Now they are at work on time, not 10 minutes and 15 minutes late, every day.

“Every day I used to have to leave home early because of the bottlenecks at Northdale Hospital. Now the traffic flows freely. It’s a breeze,” she says.

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