Billions needed to fix KZN roads

2017-12-28 13:45
Ashburton resident Ruari Harrison measures the width and depth of a monster pothole on the R103 in Mkondeni. The pothole is about 15 cm deep and 60 cm wide.

Ashburton resident Ruari Harrison measures the width and depth of a monster pothole on the R103 in Mkondeni. The pothole is about 15 cm deep and 60 cm wide. (Ian Carbutt )

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Pietermaritzburg - Dangerous potholes continue to plague KwaZulu-Natal’s motorists with one driver counting as many as 90 individual potholes on the R617 provincial road between Pietermaritzburg and Underberg.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Transport meanwhile admitted to The Witness that it has a “huge” backlog in addressing the pothole problem, adding that two years ago it had learned that it had an R80 billion backlog in fixing potholes.

The problematic roads identified by motorists include:

The R103 between Mooi River and the Giant’s Castle Game Reserve area;

The R612 between Ixopo and Park Rynie;

The R617 between Underberg and Kokstad, and between Bergville and Pieter­maritzburg;

The R56 towards Richmond; and

The N3 from the Nottingham Road area to Howick.

Motorists also complained of potholes on a number of residential roads such as Pope Ellis Drive in Ashburton.

A motorist who drove from Bergville to Pietermaritzburg along the R617 recently said he had seen major “tyre-popping” potholes on the provincial road.

“It got to a point where we just slowed down and began counting. We didn’t count the ones that were just damaged tar — we counted those ones that if you hit it, it would damage your wheel and the wheel alignment.”

The motorist said he had subsequently submitted a written complaint to the Road Traffic Management Corporation.

“For a busy road like that to have so many potholes is unacceptable. People are driving at 100 km per hour on a road like this. It will jeopardise people’s lives and damage their vehicles.”

Another motorist, Sphindile Ngubane, said he also noticed a major deterioration on the R617. “I drive from Kokstad to Underberg every weekend. That road needs to be fixed.”

Clive Prince said the R617 from Underberg to Franklin “probably had 200 potholes”.

Malcolm Harris said the R103 was so seriously affected by potholes that it was as if the road was “reabsorbed into the ground”.

“Potholes are an understatement. Entire portions of the road are missing every five-to-10 metres.”

Ashburton ward councillor Sandy Lyne said she had for years been trying to get Pope Ellis Drive resurfaced, but her powers were limited since the road falls under the province and not under the uMgungundlovu Municipality.

“We have also asked for a police presence and signage warning of potholes on that road, but that has not been forthcoming.”

Recently the potholes were filled in, but residents say this is a regular occurrence and with the first rains the potholes simply reappear because the road needs resurfacing, not filling in.

KZN Department of Transport spokesperson Nathi Sukazi said that the department does not have the requisite funds to deal with problem of potholes speedily.

“We’re not able to fix them [potholes] as quickly as we’d wish to. The department [of Transport], like all departments, has budgetary constraints.

“With our budget of about R7 billion a year, about half goes toward maintenance and new roads.”

He explained: “The road network in KZN has about 8 300 km of tarred road surface, this includes provincial roads and roads under municipalities.

“So we have to attend to a huge backlog on tarred roads, and this is before we even talk about [maintenance to] gravel roads and pedestrian and vehicle bridges.”

Sukazi could not say which provincial roads were priorities for the department, but asked for patience from communities while they try to address the issue. “All communities want to be prioritised and we can’t satisfy all communities at once.

“We want them to understand that as much as we want to meet our targets, delays must be understood in the context of the backlog.”

The Msunduzi Municipality, meanwhile, told The Witness that it was busy addressing the problem of worn-out roads.

“Maintenance of our roads is an ongoing process as you have witnessed in the city when we were doing maintenance and drawing new lines,” spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said.

The Witness also reported recently about major potholes on Ware Road in Howick, which falls under uMngeni Municipality.

According to that report residents had for years been lobbying that municipality to repair the road — with the request even being a motion in the uMngeni Municipality’s council earlier this year.

A spokesperson for uMngeni Municipality told The Witness that the road should be fixed soon as part of their plan to address potholes.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  service delivery  |  transport

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