The nightmare highway between Joburg and Pretoria is to get a fourth lane in a R22-billion facelift over the next seven years.

That’s the good news about the Ben Schoeman section of the N1, the main arterial between Gauteng’s biggest cities and the most congested road in the country.

The bad news is every freeway in the province is to be tolled.

This, together with the Gautrain, which is due to be operational by 2010, should ease the congestion on Gauteng’s busy motorways.

The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) said about 500km of road would be improved within the next seven years.

The project will be run by Sanral, the Gauteng government and the Tshwane, Joburg and Ekurhuleni metro councils.

By 2010 motorists can expect to pay about 30c a kilometre and R5 in toll fees to travel from Centurion to Sandton and back.

The tolling will be electronic, which would involve, among others, vehicles having receptors on their windscreens that would be picked up at entry points to freeways.

Number plates would be read via automatic licence-recognition cameras and fed into the electronic national traffic information system. This would be supported by electronic tagging in vehicle licence discs, which could be rolled out in a year.

This means motorists would be able to pay toll fees in advance or could be sent bills.

The expenditure up to 2010 will largely be used to upgrade the R21 from the N1 to the N12 in Ekurhuleni; the N1 from the R21 split to the Buccleuch interchange; the N1 ring road around Joburg to the Golden Highway; and a small section to relieve traffic pressure around Nasrec and link the N17 with northern Soweto.

The N1 (Ben Schoeman) highway will get an additional lane in each direction and two lanes will be added to the R21 in each direction.

There will be minor upgrades to the M1 from the Buccleuch interchange towards Joburg, and sections of the R24 and the N12 near OR Tambo International.

An amount of R6-billion will be spent from next year to 2010 and a further R14-billion between 2010 and 2013. This will cover projects linked to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and will also include a R1-billion ring road to the north of Nelspruit.