Three-tier flyover set to cool stress levels

2010-07-06 00:00

IF any city residents are uncertain that Pietermaritzburg has shed its reputation as Sleepy Hollow, despite the coming of the Liberty Midlands Mall, they will be left in no doubt by late 2012. By then, the upgrade of the Chota Motala (Old Greytown Road) interchange should be complete, marking the coming of another of the distinctive features of urban development: a triple-decker flyover.

Although The Witness has carried several articles about the construction project that started in April and is due to go on until June 2012, none has spelt out the fact that this road- upgrade project includes a complex set of roads on three different levels.

According to the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) project manager, Gavin Harrison, design work on the project began as far back as 2006. Several different solutions to the traffic problems were proposed before the current design was confirmed. Sanral approved the design as a phased approach so that a parallel service road will eventually be constructed adjacent to the Dorpspruit stream between the Chota Motala Road interchange and Victoria Road.

The project stalled at one stage because constrained funding required the prioritising and revisiting of the entire intervention, but is now well under way. However, due to encounters with unexpected services that have to be relocated like storm water drains, sewers, and Eskom and Telkom lines, construction has been slightly delayed.

The hedges and fence on the median in the centre of the N3 in the vicinity of the Liberty Midlands Mall are being removed to make way for additional lanes, widening the highway to three lanes in each direction. The fence and hedges will be replaced by a permanent concrete median barrier separating the north- and southbound highways. The sides of the highway will be widened slightly, which has already started on the N3 north between Chota Motala Road and the Chatterton Road off-ramp. The N3 road surface will also be repaired and upgraded with a new concrete overlay.

The work being done on the western side of Chota Motala Road on both sides of the N3 is the start of construction to widen the bridge over the highway to three lanes both ways. Concrete beams will be cast on site at the construction headquarters on Woodlands Road for this new six-lane bridge. When it is complete, the existing bridge will be demolished. In the same way, a new bridge will be constructed over the Dorpspruit just south of the highway.

The surface of Chota Motala Road will also be repaired and retarred, giving it a life span of 20 to 30 years. That is also the life expectancy of the new concrete surface of the N3.

New interchange bridges will also be constructed to match the level of the new Chota Motala Road bridge (see diagram). The first will bring traffic from Chota Motala Road on a slipway over Du Toit Viljoen Road that runs parallel to the highway. This on- ramp from Chota Motala Road will then steepen up in order to gain height sufficiently to lead northbound traffic via a curved, incrementally launched bridge over the new widened Chota Motala Road bridge, over the N3, and back down, where it joins the N3 northbound carriageway (Ramp E).

This work will create the first multiple-level road interchange the city has seen. The incrementally launched bridge technique is not new to Pietermaritzburg as the Manning Avenue bridge over the N3 was constructed similarly in the late eighties. This technique allows for the bridge to be constructed in stages at the concrete casting yard, stitched together and pushed out over the N3 in segments. This prevents any traffic disruption on the N3 and Chota Motala Road. Harrison said: “Sanral has given a lot of aesthetic consideration to the design of the new bridges and once completed they will be a landmark in Pietermaritzburg.”

Motorists who use the N3 off-ramp up onto Chota Motala Road will know that traffic in this lane regularly backs up all the way to the mall. This lane will also be widened using what is currently veld, taking the road close to the railway line in one place (Ramp C). Ramp B in the graphic is the new on-ramp that will take traffic off Chota Motala Road and onto the north- bound N3 towards Johannesburg.

Ramp A is the existing off-ramp from the N3 northbound onto Chota Motala from where motorists can either turn right to go up Chota Motala Road into Willowton and the northern suburbs or left into town down Church Street.

Ramp D is the existing slip road that directs traffic from Chota Motala Road onto the N3 southbound towards Durban, which will remain as it is, apart from some widening.

Eventually, Chota Motala Road will be widened to three lanes each way from East Street in the CBD to the Otto’s Bluff Road. The widening of the road from the N3 up the hill past the Northway Mall will be the last section to be completed in 2012.

The acting public safety manager, Kwenza Khumalo, has asked the public to be patient and “bear with us. It will be an inconvenience [in the short term] but it’s for a good cause” (The Witness, May 18).

CLEARLY, a construction project of this magnitude is going to cause major traffic disruption for the next two years. Speed limits on the N3 in the vicinity of the construction have already been reduced from 100 km/h to 80 km/h and at times 60 km/h. To resurface the highway, lanes will have to be closed at different times. However, authorities have given assurances that there will always be adequate staff on hand to direct motorists accordingly.

“There is obviously going to be noise, dust, considerable traffic disruption and inconvenience to motorists over the next two years,” project manager Gavin Harrison said. “However, we are working closely with the Road Traffic Inspectorate and Msunduzi traffic department to ensure it is properly managed. All the same, we would advise motorists to avoid the area and use alternative routes like Manning Avenue and Ohrtmann Road if they can. The public has also been warned that both the Road Traffic Inspectorate and Msunduzi traffic police will carry out regular speed checks to ensure compliance with the reduced speed limitations.”

WORK currently going on is:

• CHOTA MOTALA BRIDGE: preparing the area around the bridge to build a new, wider bridge over the N3 with three lanes in and out of town. This includes earthmoving equipment doing excavations and removing soil, and construction vehicles shipping in rock to form the base for the new bridge.

• N3 NORTH: widening to three lanes from Manning Avenue to Chota Motala, four lanes from there to Sanctuary Road off- ramp and three lanes from Sanctuary Road off-ramp to Chatterton Road on-ramp.

• N3 SOUTH: widening from Chatterton Road off-ramp to Midlands Mall, four lanes from mall to Chota Motala and four lanes from Chota Motala to Manning Avenue.

A FAMILIAR sight around the intersection in question are pupils of Forest Hill Primary walking to and from their school at the corner of Chota Motala and Willowton roads. Principal Basil Manuel expressed fears for the pupils’ safety during the construction project (The Witness, May 7). Sanral’s Gavin Harrison said that representatives of all the stakeholders involved, including the school, the contractors, Msunduzi Municipality and the Road Traffic Inspectorate have met and agreed that the pupils would be taken care of.

The widening of Chota Motala Road will take the road close to the school buildings, with just a concrete wall separating them. The impact that traffic noise will have on the school is as yet unknown.

CLIENT: SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral)

CONSULTING ENGINEERS: Iliso Aurecon Joint Venture

RESIDENT SITE ENGINEER: Malcolm Barron

CHIEF CONTRACTOR: Group 5 Joint Venture

COST: R280 million shared by Sanral and Msunduzi Municipality

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