THE Ballito Interchange was opened at Ballito on the N2 on Friday by the Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters.The minister was accompanied by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda, iLembe District mayor Welcome Mdabe, KwaDukuza Municipality mayor Ricardo Mthembu, deputy mayors, SANTACO president Philip Taaibosch and provincial chairperson Boy Zondi, and members of the public.The interchange has helped to eliminate traffic congestion and long delays.Peters, accompanied by KZN MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liason Mxolisi Kaunda and KwaDukuza Municipality mayor Ricardo Mthembu, placed wreaths at the scene of two fatal accidents that occurred last year.On 9 July 2015, Thulani Mashaba, Deputy Mayor of uThungulu District Municipality, died in a car crash near the Ballito turn-off. On 17 August 2015, a taxi crashed down an embankment at the Shaka's Head off-ramp and landed on railway tracks - before being hit by an oncoming passenger train. Sixteen people were killed in the accident.Peters said the Ballito Interchange project was initiated to expand capacity for traffic where the MR 445 crosses the N2.“The high congestion at peak times pointed to the need for improvements to be effected to the interchange to adequately provide for current traffic demands as well as future traffic demand generated by the proposed developments surrounding the Ballito area, taking due cognisance of the expected traffic growth on the N2 due to the new King Shaka International Airport,” she said.According to the minister, the interchange attracts 20 000 vehicles from the north during weekdays and 14 000 on weekends; and 29 000 vehicles from the south during the week and 20 000 over weekends.“Studies concluded that construction of improved free-flow ramps would reduce congestion and improve road safety at the interchange,” said Peters.She said SANRAL awarded the consulting engineering services for the Ballito Interchange to SMEC South Africa in 2009. Construction commenced in March 2012 and was completed in July 2014 by Stefanutti & Stocks Civils KZN. The project has been wholly funded by SANRAL and the final budget was R123 million.In addition, the KwaDukuza Municipality and the provincial Department of Transport forked out R67 million to fund work of the main road P455, connecting the interchange – to the N2 to Ballito town and M4.“The improvements at the interchange have resulted in a reduction in travel times with a substantial reduction in traffic congestion on the N2 and MR445 during peak hours. The upgrade of this interchange has significantly improved safety for pedestrians and motorists and also meets future demand owing to increased Traffic volumes. The new interchange now has a reduced carbon footprint,” said Peters.During the construction period, a total of R22.9 million was earned by 13 black-owned SMMEs while 104 people were employed earning R13.8 million in total. Various training programmes were provided ranging from engineering skills in jobs such as scaffold erecting and shutter fixing to safety awareness training in traffic control and first aid. Internships were provided to five engineering students throughout the contract duration."We are transforming the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa through this investment in roads infrastructure upgrades. We are more determined to develop more infrastructure especially in rural communities to create easy access to essential services such as schools, clinics, hospitals, workplaces and shopping centres," said Kaunda.