Gauteng motorists will have a new, congestion-free highway system by 2010 – but they will be paying between 30 to 50c per kilometre to use it.

Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe on Monday announced a R22-billion plan to extend and upgrade the province’s freeways over the next seven years. The first phase, at a cost of R15-billion, will be in place by 2010.

Called the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, it involves 560km of roads to be upgraded as well as the building of new roads to improve accessibility and reduce congestion.

The first phase will include upgrading, increased carrying capacity, and intersection improvements on the N1, N3, N4, N12, N14 and R21.

 
Every freeway will get an additional lane, which will be a high-occupancy lane for vehicles carrying more than two people.

It is hoped that the new roads will optimise the movement of people and goods through the creation of an interconnected network of inner and outer ring roads and will provide a direct link to Johannesburg’s historically neglected south-western townships.

The second phase will include the introduction of a tolling system, which will pay for the road development and maintenance.

This will be electronic – there will be no physical plazas – so as not to impede the flow of traffic. About 47 gantries or electronic plazas will be placed on the freeways, about 11km apart.

Among other plans are the implementation of a business express railway line between Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Radebe said the Intelligent Transport System, which was recently started on the Ben Schoeman highway and which involves opening the shoulder lane during peak periods and illuminated warning signs for motorists, would be extended.

By the end of this month, fibre-optic cables and CCTV installation for this section would be completed, adding a further 180 cameras.

Radebe said his department had learnt that effective incident management, which included the removal of stranded vehicles, was the biggest challenge. More than 50 percent of incidents reported on the Ben Schoeman were the result of breakdowns.

During construction, 22 000 direct jobs will be created, with a further 138 000 indirect employment opportunities.