Commuter artery clogged

2018-06-25 16:00
Traffic negotiates construction work on the corner of Moses Mabhida and Sutherland roads.

Traffic negotiates construction work on the corner of Moses Mabhida and Sutherland roads. (Ian Carbutt)

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It has taken Msunduzi two years and five months (and counting) to upgrade one of the city’s major commuting arteries in a job that should have taken just over a year to complete.

The upgrade of 6,5 km of Moses Mabhida Road, formerly known as Edendale Road, which is part of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN), appears to have gone completely off the rails.

There is still no end in sight on the project that started in January 2016 and was supposed to have been signed off in April 2017.

The road connects thousands of commuters from Imbali, Edendale and outlying rural areas in Vulindlela, to the city.

The upgrade of Moses Mabhida Road is the first phase of the implementation of the Edendale/Northdale Corridor, which will go via Church Street.

The municipality was asked about the cause of the delays and how far the project had progressed, but has not responded to queries sent on Thursday.

Musa Mazubane, founder of Kulu Civils, which was awarded the multimillion-rand contact, told The Witness that the delays were caused by Msunduzi’s failure to obtain permits from the Department of Water and Sanitation, and Transnet before the contractor got on site. He said they could not interfere with the streams, bridges and railway tracks without the necessary authorisation.

The municipality terminated the contract last year and is apparently in the process of appointing a new contractor.

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande expressed his dismay at the delays and the traffic congestion. Speaking at a transport imbizo held at Caluza Sports Ground on Saturday, Nzimande urged the municipality to speed up the work. “Once that road has been completed, traffic will flow easily,” he said.

The imbizo had been called to discuss challenges related to transport with the issue of protests by truck drivers featuring prominently during the discussions.

Nzimande’s department is funding the IRPTN project.

Road users have complained that the construction has led to traffic congestion around Imbali Crossing, which connects road users from Imbali, Willowfountain, Ashdown and other townships to Moses Mabhida Road.

Mdumiseni Ntuli, from Elandskop, said since the project started he has had to leave home much earlier to ensure that he arrives at work on time.

“It’s complete chaos in the mornings. I used to leave home at 6.20 am and now I leave at 5.45 am. We appreciate that the municipality is expanding the road, but the process must be finalised soon,” he said.

Another Imbali resident, Jabulile Mkhize, said she was often late for work. “During peak-hour traffic you can spend close to an hour on Edendale Road. It’s infuriating because we don’t even have a time frame of when the project will be completed.”

Sifiso Madlala, a taxi driver, said passengers were constantly complaining about being late due to the ongoing construction.

“There is too much traffic in this road every day. Passengers always complain when they get to work late because of the traffic. We end up having to go around to avoid the traffic and that costs us a lot of petrol. They should get done with this road now,” he said.

A metered taxi driver, Philani Maphanga, complained about the constant changing of lanes drivers were allowed to drive in.

“In the morning you will be driving on this lane and when you come back it has been changed and they tell you that it is now reserved for buses. I used to wake up at 6 am before the construction of the road now I have to leave home at 6 am and sometimes it is still late.”

Motorist Bheki Zondi said the delays in the project were affecting his travelling expenses.

“This road should have been closed during the construction so that we know and accept that we will suffer for a few months. What makes them take so long is that they open the road on the other side yet they are still busy. This road should have been finished in the estimated time, now it causes more expenses for us,” he said.

Santaco regional chairperson Bheki Sokhela said the increased traffic congestion in the area was one of the issues that taxi operators had complained about when they took to the streets earlier this year.

“Taxis get stuck there and it leads to disorder because drivers sometimes become impatient,” he said.

Sokhela said they met the municipality about the matter and asked that it deploy traffic officers to monitor traffic in the area.

“The problem starts when traffic officers arrive late or they do not arrive at all. It just becomes a nightmare,” he said.

Opposition in the dark over progress

Opposition councillors said they had been kept on the dark about the progress of the project, but said millions meant for it had been surrendered back to National Treasury due to underspending.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said the delays would lead to price escalations and called on the City to impose penalties on under-performing contractors.

“It is painful that this is one of the conditional grants where we continue to perform poorly. Last year we had to surrender R208 million in conditional grants back to National Treasury, and the IRPTN was the biggest contributor to that.”

Majola said the more the upgrade of Moses Mabhida Road continued to drag, the more likely it was that the entire IRPTN project would not be completed on time. “Moses Mabhida Road is just phase one and two of the project and they still have to come to town on Church Street and Northdale. The delays in Moses Mabhida Road are delaying the entire project. During budget stage, we objected to the project being allocated R160 million because we were not convinced that they will spend what they had been allocated. The project is in disaster stage ... it should be moved from the office of the municipal manager to the infrastructure business unit,” he said.

IFP caucus leader Thinasonke Ntombela said they were also worried about progress. “Recently there was a report that said in the third quarter there was R71 million that remained unspent. We have been asking for consolidated reports of this project but nothing is forthcoming ...”

The map shows the places where traffic becomes heavily congested during peak hours.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  construction
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