PMB’s gridlock grief

2010-10-18 00:00

GRIN and bear it. That is the gist of the message from Msunduzi municipal officials to complaints from harassed and frustrated motorists caught in the peak hour traffic gridlock to and from the northern suburbs.

We will not, say outraged residents, who describe the situation as disastrous and are calling for a contingency plan to be put in place while the construction work at the Chota Motala interchange is underway.

Irate road users have flooded The Witness with complaints, saying they are not asking for preferential treatment and are mindful that the situation is temporary. However, they say the gridlock has given rise to an element of lawlessness that could result in disaster.

Motorists who come from the upper reaches of Northdale, Bombay Heights, Dunveria and Copesville say traffic blockages can stretch for over 10 kilometres through many of the smaller streets that feed into the main roads. Ward councillor Les Naidoo said it is quicker to travel from Pietermaritzburg to Durban than it is to travel the eight kilometres from Bombay Heights to town during peak traffic hours.

Drivers who have timed their trips say it takes between an hour to an hour and half to get to work in the city centre.

Without any visible policing, impatient motorists and taxi drivers are taking short cuts, driving in the wrong lane and often in the face of oncoming traffic to cut queues.

Many residents say they are sick with worry as they are forced to leave their children on empty school grounds as early as 6.30 am in the morning in order to make it to work by 8 am.

Ward councillors have come in for a lambasting for not addressing the situation. “Where is councillor Mergan Chetty?” asked a resident. “I still have a copy of his manifesto where he promises to sort out the traffic congestion.”

The councillors in turn say they are fed up with being in the firing line and need the traffic department to become more pro-active.

Chetty said he is aware that as a result of the construction, more motorists are making use of New Greytown Road causing congestion in Allandale right through to Ohrtmann Road and Manning Avenue.

He said that a month ago he met with administrator Johann Mettler and officials and proposed making Manning Avenue one way during the peak traffic times for the duration of the interchange construction.

“Mr Mettler told the officials to prepare a report on how this can be done. I am still waiting for the report and I will be following it up,” he said

Chetty added that he has also spoken to the provincial Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) who have indicated that they are willing to assist. “They are waiting for our guys in the traffic department as to what is happening to this proposal.”

Councillor Patrick Moon had to get the assistance of community members to bring a measure of order to the situation. He said vehicles were driving through the cemetery and through the Northway Spar parking lot and re-entering the traffic flow from the Otto’s Bluff Road. This was causing a snarl-up for traffic coming out of Woodlands. “I spoke to the management of the Spar and they gave us permission to place two pillars and erect a chain across the exit from the supermarket. I have two volunteers from the community who sit there in the mornings until about 8.30 am to ensure these vehicles can’t get through.”

Both Moon and Naidoo say there is a desperate need for more visible traffic policing to stop the lawlessness on the roads. “I worry every day that something is going to happen and the community is going to turn around and point a finger at us councillors.” said Moon.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said that everyone expected problems with traffic flow as a result of the construction work at Chota Motala, and this is only expected to last a few months.

He urged motorists to be patient. He said the traffic department has contingency plans to deal with specific incidents, but not for the length and duration that the construction is expected to take.

Making Manning Avenue one way during peak traffic period and other suggestions will be considered.

Zuma cites a lack of resources within the municipality to do more and points out that it is not just the northern suburbs that are adversely affected by congestion.

Other areas experiencing high traffic volumes include Polly Shortts, where there have been many pleas to assist with traffic congestion during the morning and afternoon peak hours, said Zuma.

“Edendale has a standing request that dates back to 2008 for traffic officers to assist with traffic control and various intersections. Mayor’s Walk, Zwartkop and Sweetwaters roads are also genuine examples of areas that are in dire need of traffic control assis­tance,” he added.

According to Zuma, as a result of demand exceeding supply, the traffic department has been unable to assist.

Asked why the construction did not merit the presence of more traffic officials, Zuma said that in other major road construction areas, like Durban and Johannesburg, “there are no traffic officers pulling traffic, only on a monitoring basis and when available”.

MUNICIPAL spokesperson Brian Zuma’s suggestions to help the situation. He says motorists are urged to:

• use less congested routes — namely Willowton Road and Manning Avenue — this should relieve the bottleneck on Chota Motala Road;

• leave their residential areas early;

• encourage the use of lift clubs;

• obey the instructions of the traffic signals at various intersections;

• engage with awareness programmes in the form of advertisements, flyers, community meetings, community police forums, school governing bodies etc..

DESPITE treacherous conditions on the N3 past the N3/Church Street interchange, many drivers are ignoring the warning signs and speed restrictions there.

The narrowing of the road to facilitate roadworks in the area combined with the concrete barrier make for a hazardous situation, and authorities have pointed to numerous accidents that have already occurred on that stretch.

Transport Department spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said that 95% of drivers have bad attitudes. She said speeding despite the restrictions is rife, but that if drivers stuck to the speed limit the area would be much safer. She said department vehicles are parked there constantly with their blue lights flashing, which should serve as a warning to motorists. “We don’t deploy our officers to look pretty.” She said what also makes the stretch of road between Sanctuary Road off-ramp and the Church Street off-ramp dangerous is the fact that truck drivers, whose vehicles are not fitted with retarders to help slow them down, often accelerate at the bottom of Town Hill to cool their brakes.

A spokesperson from the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) said the speeding of trucks and cars where the construction is taking place means their road workers are very vulnerable on the N3. He said there is adequate signage in place to decrease speed from 100 km/h to 80 km/h to 60 km/h for cars and 40 km/h for trucks and that Sanral is working closely with the Road Traffic Inspectorate, which is responsible for the speed enforcement functions on the N3 in the vicinity of the construction works.

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