N2 traffic jam end in sight

2014-02-20 00:00

DURBAN’S N2 Umgeni Road interchange is expected to be completed by October — almost one year later and R152 million more than was originally budgeted.

The delays in construction have ex­acerbated the notorious daily bottlenecks and hurt businesses who say that customers would rather bypass the area than come into their shops.

The project, which started in 2011 and was to have been completed in September last year, has been beset with delays including community unrest, strikes by workers and inclement weather.

The interchange is north of the EB Cloete (Spaghetti Junction) interchange, a few kilometres from the Durban CBD.

It leads traffic west towards Reservoir Hills and Pinetown, and joins the N2 Umgeni River bridge. The interchange also leads traffic to the N2 South and N2 North towards the King Shaka International Airport.

It had been reported that the amount set aside for the project was R360 million. This week, Logashri Sewnarain, the South African National Road Agency (Sanral) regional spokesperson said the projected costs for the project stands at R512 million.

“There were challenges which included the site being constrained by the Umgeni River, the M19, the community and businesses all in a close vicinity. This led to limited availability of space and logistics challenges,” said Sewnarain.

She said the area has very high traffic volumes and this posed traffic accommodation problems. The ground conditions varied during construction of the bridge foundations and substantial services needed to be relocated.

A number of other factors such as relocating people from a nearby house and acquiring land for the works further delayed the problem. “Numerous services had to be relocated on the site. The community unrest and local strikes contributed to the delays. Inclement weather and contractors’ own delays also played a role,” she said.

In July last year, work at the site was delayed after a labour dispute which dragged on for nine weeks.

The parties involved — the contractor Rumdel Mazcon JV and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), later resolved the dispute amicably.

Sewnarain said the earlier figure of R360 million did not include for escalation, contingencies and VAT. She said the recent figure of R512 million included the revised schedule of work, additional work, contract escalation, contingencies and VAT.

The intersection (M19 and N2) is one of the busiest roads in the province between 6 am and 6 pm. The eThekwini Municipality’s Road Accident Statistics and Road Traffic Volumes 2011/12 report shows that more than 60 000 vehicles per hour travel on that section of the N2 and the M19.

The interchange also includes various directional ramps, two overpass viaducts over the N2 and Umgeni Road, two overpass bridges over Umgeni Road as well as an overpass bridge over a loop ramp.

The Springfield Business Forum which looks after the interests of business owners in the area said their members would not be able to handle any more delays.

Ross Morum, a business owner in Springfield Park, said, “We have experienced a large decline in cars coming to the centre due to the traffic and congestion at the intersection. Motorists make every effort to avoid it, thus bypassing the businesses on Umgeni Road (Springfield Park). We look forward to the construction being completed so that we can go back to business as usual”.

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