The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) is under way without any unexpected challenges, says South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (Sanral’s) northern region manager for toll and traffic Alex Van Niekerk.

He says that different strategies are being employed by the different contractors in the approach to the work. “While some had earlier starts than others, this is all part of their respective programmes,” he adds.

There are currently nine projects on which construction work has started. Van Niekerk says the latest additions, work packages G and H, are the sections on the R21. The work packages were awarded during August and the contractors are now busy establishing the work site. The contractor for work package G is construction company Raubex, and for work package H engineering and building company Power Construction.

Work package G is from Tshwane’s Hans Strijdom interchange to the Olifantsfontein interchange, in Johannesburg. Work package H is from the Olifantsfontein interchange to the Benoni interchange.

Van Niekerk comments that traffic accommodation is challenging and requires lane closures from time to time. However, the basic number of lanes that were available to traffic before construction started is still available during peak traffic periods. The work area on both the median and the outside shoulders are closed off for road widening by means of steel or concrete barriers for road safety purposes. He says good progress is being made on the bridge structures, with new bridge constructions and bridge widenings, in most instances, already under way.

He comments that even though there are no significant challenges on the project, “there are the day-to-day challenges of shifting services, which is challenging because this requires third-party involvement. “These are normal challenges that occur on projects of this nature. “There are environmental challenges that crop up, and these are resolved with the environment authorities, or identified and resolved in-house.”

The Project

The GFIP is a long-term freeway upgrading and expansion project and entails the eventual upgrade and construction of about 561 km of freeway. One of the main aims of the project is to stimulate growth in the province.

Creamer Media’s Research Channel Africa reports that the proposed upgrades will include the construction of additional lanes inclusive of high-occu- pancy vehicle lanes, auxiliary and climbing lanes, certain inter- change and intersection upgrades, the upgrading of certain sections of the existing roads and pavements and the provision of road lighting.

The proposed upgrades will take place at the following locations: the National Road 1 (N1) Section 20 between the Golden highway and the 14th avenue interchange (Floracliffe); the N1 Section 20 between 14th avenue and the Buccleuch inter- changes, the N1 Section 20 and 21 between the Buccleuch and the Brakfontein interchanges (Ben Schoeman highway); the N3 Section 12 between the Grey avenue (Alberton) and the Geldenhuys interchanges; the N3 Section 12 between the Geldenhuys and the Buccleuch interchanges; the N12 Section 18 between the Uncle Charlie’s (South Gate) and the Elands (Germiston) interchanges; and the R21 road between the N12 (Boksburg) and the Hans Strijdom interchange (Pretoria).

Proposed minor improvements will include an areawide roll- out of the intelligent transport system currently operating on the Ben Schoeman highway and the provision of road lighting. Minor improvements will also take place on the R24, and on the M1 between Corlett drive (Birnam) and the Buccleuch interchange.

The project will include the proposed upgrade of a section of the N1 and minor improvements to the N4 and the N14 on the Gauteng freeway network.

Funds for the infrastructure upgrade will be raised through a tolling system. An electronic toll collection system will become operational after 2010, with the building of 42 gantries on existing roads. The tollgates will use etags and surveillance equipment linked to processors with nameplate recognition software to detect vehicles travelling underneath a toll gantry.

The Department of Transport (DoT), through Sanral, is investing more than R12-billion in the first phase of this project. For the second phase, the DoT will invest R20-billion, and R23-billion will be invested for the final phase. This project will be financed through the ‘user-pay’ principle, and it will allow the road projects to be funded, without resorting to the national fiscus for such projects.