PMB toll plaza

2010-04-29 00:00

MOTORISTS should brace themselves for a tollgate on Pietermaritzburg’s doorstep as preparations and studies by consultants get under way.

A new tollgate on the N3 has become a real prospect with the proposed upgrading of several sections of the toll highway between the Lynn­field Park interchange south of Pietermaritzburg, and the Cedara interchange to the north.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) said the upgrades are to accommodate increasing traffic volumes and loads on the N3 and will result in a safer and more efficient national road network.

Part of the project will be to widen certain bridges, including the one over Mpushini River, and add new lanes to three sections of the freeway through the city.

The Witness has learnt that funding for these upgrades will be sourced from toll fees. Details will be made known through a separate approval process under the South African National Roads Agency and National Roads Act No.7 of 1998 once Sanral has completed its investigations. A source close to the project said that through this process, the KwaZulu-Natal premier and other affected parties will be notified and given the chance to comment.

Sanral chief executive officer Nazir Alli said the project is in its early stages; consultants are still in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) phase.

“We still have to do a series of studies on the impact of the project to the environment and when all is in place, then the necessary documentation will be forwarded to the minister of Environmental Affairs for a decision to go ahead.

“If all goes well, the documents and public participation for comment can be done by the middle of next year. It is only then that we will know the exact location of the tollgate,” Alli said yesterday.

Asked what will happen if the minister decides against the project, he said that then there will be no beautiful roads.

Asked to comment on speculation that an alternative to building the tollgate would be to raise toll fees at the Mariannhill Plaza to recover construction costs, Alli said that will never happen.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business chief Andrew Layman has said that if decent roads are needed, the only way to pay for them is through toll roads.

“So far tolling has proved to be the most efficient way to collect revenue for road maintenance, and if that revenue is not recovered through tolling, then the government will have to increase taxes. We can comment further after we are made aware of the exact location of the toll road,” Layman said.

The news that a new toll plaza is planned has not been well received by the taxi industry, which says this is another way in which the government is ripping off the poor.

Msundizi Regional Taxi Council chairperson Boy Zondi said that whichever side of town the tollgate is situated, it will will be a setback for the industry.

“Moor River and Mariannhill Plaza are enough to deal with. With the constant petrol hikes and the state of the economy … we don’t need another tollgate.

“The government should explain where all this money goes,” said Zondi.

The Democratic Alliance has described the plaza proposal as “a slap in the face for KZN motorists”.

DA spokesperson for transport Radley Keys said the announcement is yet another indication of the dictatorial approach by Sanral and the national government.

“Despite vociferous opposition from the provincial legislature and numerous anti-toll groups from as far back as 2002, Sanral and government appear intent on further burdening KZN taxpayers and milking the province’s motorists until the last drop runs dry,” said Keys.

He said recent research conducted by the DA has revealed that just 96 km of the province’s road network is considered to be in good condition.

“The problem lies with a system that sees the fuel levy, which all motorists pay, disappearing into the big black hole that is the National Treasury.

“The DA repeats its call for a dedicated transport infrastructure fund to be set up, funded by this same fuel levy, so that funding is ring-fenced for infrastructure, construction and general maintenance on our province’s roads,” Keys added.

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