Construction has begun on Phase 1 of the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (Sanral’s) freeway improvement scheme with the developments of the N1 between the R21 and the Atterbury interchange.

The tender for the Atterbury interchange improvements at the N1 section was awarded to building and civil engineering company Basil Read.

The Gauteng Freeway Improve-ment Scheme (GFIS), a road rehabi- litation project, was developed in coordination with the provincial and metropolitan authorities, and is under the direction of the Depart-ment of Transport.

The GFIS was developed by Sanral in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and associated delays, as well as to improve living conditions, and ensure sustainable economic growth in Gauteng, reports Sanral.

The GFIS projects will be implemented in three phases, with Phase A being the initial construction works (ICW), says Sanral northern region manager of toll and traffic Alex van Niekerk.

“Owing to the significance of the 2010 FIFA soccer World Cup, routes were identified for completion by 2010. The routes earmarked for completion by 2010 are grouped in Phase A-1,” explains Van Niekerk.

This phase includes the upgrading of the N1 from Soweto to the N4 in Pretoria, the N3 from Alberton to the Buccleuch interchange, the N12 south of Johannesburg, as well as sections of the N12 to the East Rand, and sections of the R21.

The section between the Gillooly’s interchange and the R21 on the N12 is currently in the tender evaluation stage, says Van Niekerk.

“A separate contract for the provision of concrete barriers is also in the tender evaluation stage. All the other projects that form part of the initial phases are almost ready for tender purposes,” he adds.

The GFIS Phase one road construction objectives will consist of road widening as well as improvements at freeway interchanges, and this includes the provision of auxiliary lanes at on- and off-ramps.

Phase one of the freeway improvement scheme also com- pensates for bridge widening or bridge additions, converting diamond interchanges into single-point interchange configurations, and, at some interchanges, improvements to the cross roads or cross-road intersections will be required, explains Van Niekerk.

He says that all sections currently without lighting will be fitted with lighting.

An estimated 561 km of new, and existing freeways will form part of the final freeway improvement scheme (20-year implementation programme), which is based on a set list of principles and operational mandates that include the promotion of public transport and travel demand management.

“Considerable effort is made to determine opportunities to integrate the GFIS with public transport initiatives from the metropolitan councils and province. It is currently proposed that additional lanes that are constructed be dedicated for high-occupancy vehicles, which enhance the objectives of travel demand management and public transport promotion. Also, modal transfer and park-and-ride facilities are envisaged as part of the project,” states Van Niekerk.

The GFIS will also serve to enhance the concepts of intelligent transport systems (ITS) for the efficient operation and management of public transport modes, as well as to ensure sustainable maintenance, upgrading and expansion of the freeway network.

The ITS equipment that the toll road will be equipped with includes variable-message signs to com- municate with road users, as well as closed-circuit television (CCTV) technology, ramp metering and electronic traffic detection equipment, reports Sanral.

“This equipment will be used to assist the public to make informed travel decisions by means of the display, and communication of real time traffic information, such as incident information and expected travel times,” explains Van Niekerk.

He says that efficient management and use of existing road capacity will be achieved through inform- ation technology, such as ramp metering, and the electronic opening and closing of shoulder lanes at selected sections in peak traffic conditions.

Van Niekerk says that incident management is a very important aspect of the project, and through traffic detection equipment and CCTV, incidents are detected and validated, after which the incident management process starts.

“The construction of new road sections will, eventually, assist Sanral with road network management, since more routes and alternatives will be available to users in the event of congestion or incidents on a specific road section,” adds Van Niekerk. Sanral investigated the social and economic impact of the project, as part of the development phase of the project, says Van Niekerk.

“Specific road improvements as well as the integration of the freeway improvement scheme with public transport, and travel demand management have been identified, and the toll feasibility has been investigated,” states Van Niekerk.

Sanral is currently busy with a toll declaration process, which will serve as the user-pay tolling concept in order to finance of the GFIS project, concludes Van Niekerk.