‘Bridge could come down’

2018-01-19 13:45
A truck drives under the Peter Brown bridge, which was damaged in 2016 after a truck crashed into one of the supporting pillars.

A truck drives under the Peter Brown bridge, which was damaged in 2016 after a truck crashed into one of the supporting pillars. (Chelsea Pieterse)

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As public outrage mounts over the condition of the Peter Brown bridge and off-ramp, the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has said they are hoping to have a “contractor and a professional supervision team on site” in July.

Although Wednesday’s truck crash was not caused by the condition of the road or the bridge, it re-ignited public concerns over the safety of the N3 in the area.

A supporting pillar of the Peter Brown bridge was badly damaged when a truck crashed into it in late 2016 and a temporary support structure was put in place until permanent repairs can be done.

Despite assurances that it is deemed “safe”, residents fear driving over and under it due to visible cracks in the concrete.

Last February motorists also complained of a deep ridge between the truck lane and slow lane in the area creating a dangerously uneven surface for vehicles taking the Peter Brown off-ramp.

Sanral undertakings to survey and initiate the repairs have not materialised from February last year. Difficulties with ground water seepage, and tender requirements were among reasons cited.

In July last year, Sanral’s eastern regional manager Logashri Sewnarain said contractors were expected on site “in the new year”, meaning 2018.

Facebook user Lynda Jane posted on The Witness Facebook page on Wednesday that the bridge appeared structurally unsound.

“That bridge needs serious attention before it collapses onto the freeway and kills innocent people,” she posted.

“I cannot recall how many years its been like this but propping it up is not the way. As the saying goes a stitch in time saves nine.

“There has been a huge increase in accidents over the years. I have lived alongside the N3 for a very long time and we hear the ‘bang’ sit, wait and sure enough the sirens start and we know we were right,” she said.

Another Facebook user, Nicky Gray, posted: “This was in The Witness just over a year ago. I have been driving down the hill and have had a truck pull out in front of me just because it’s impossible for him to safely negotiate the ridges in the truck lane.

“We will see more and more of these accidents until the road is properly fixed. As for the bridge, Sanral say it’s not compromised, but it must be. I am not an engineer, but common sense tells me that bridge could come down if one more truck hits it,” she said.

Following this week’s truck accident, Hugh Brooks of Sanral said the bridge was inspected by a certified bridge inspector after the 2016 crash.

“The bridge was last inspected in September 2017 and deemed safe. The bridge is monitored frequently under Sanral’s Routine Road Maintenance contract for any changes,” said Brooks.

He said the bridge piers and the temporary prop are protected with New Jersey barriers, however, “any bridge is vulnerable from traffic impact to its supporting structure”.

He added that the damaged portion of the bridge was closed to road users.

He also maintained that in light of the reduced speed limit, traversing the ridge on the N3 at Peter Brown off-ramp is “perfectly safe although a little uncomfortable”.

The only other option would be to close the Peter Brown off-ramp and the concrete truck lane, which will limit access and reduce freeway capacity.

A police source who could not be named said the section of the N3 from before Peter Brown to the mall was infamously named “killer bend” years ago.

He said the name seems appropriate considering the number of accidents recently, adding he felt the “ridge” was a major contributing factor.

“There are accidents on that corner almost every week,” he said.

“I know the repairs cannot be done overnight but people’s lives are at risk and people have died.”

He also criticised the fact that no signs indicate a high accident zone, and said speeding contributes to the number of crashes.

“There needs to be more law enforcement on that stretch of road as well as more emergency truck stops.”

Another police source said he damaged his vehicle while crossing the ridge to take the Peter Brown off-ramp last year.

“I have lost count of the number of accidents that have happened at that corner. It is a huge problem.

“It’s not safe for emergency services and law enforcement either as if they are attending an accident, all it takes is a car to lose control over that ridge and it will hit them.”

Several paramedics also said they attended several accidents near the off- ramp that appeared to be caused by the ridge.


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