Motorists sceptical over pilot project geared to control flow on onramps

Motorists are in for a surprise this week – they will find themselves being stopped by new traffic lights at some onramps along the Ben Schoeman Highway.

The SA National Roads Agency (Sanra) has placed robots at Samrand south-bound, Rooihuiskraal south-bound and New Road north- and south-bound in a pilot project which starts tomorrow.

Ramp metering, explained Sanral spokesperson Priya Pillay, would allow traffic flow onto the freeway to be controlled to prevent stop-go conditions, thereby improving flow.

A traffic signal will indicate green and red on the onramp for short periods during which one or a few vehicles per green light will be allowed through. When not operational, it will remain green, allowing vehicles to go through.

“The ramps will be monitored by camera, and if an operator sees the onramps are getting backed up, he will override the system. The lights will be used only during peak-hour traffic,” Pillay said.

The project forms part of Sanral’s Intelligent Transport System, launched in October last year, which saw the implementation of the opening of the shoulder lane to traffic during peak hours and the installation of illuminated signs warning motorists of hazards or collisions.

Pillay said that if the pilot worked, it would be used on all the freeways in the country.

Camera law enforcement of the traffic signals will also be done at the traffic signals.

Pamphlets had been handed out to motorists on the onramps since last week, explaining the use of the metering system.

But motorists are mainly sceptical, fearing backlogs on the highway.

John Morrison said he didn’t really know how it was going to work, but that it didn’t sound feasible.

“I can imagine that it will make matters worse for those trying to get onto the freeway,” he said.

Moses Mofokeng said he was unaware of the plans but didn’t think it would work.

“It’s going to cause a huge back-up in other areas with motorists waiting to get onto the freeways, but we will have to wait and see,” he said.

Angela Moloko, too, was unaware of Sanra’s plans.

“It doesn’t sound right. I saw the traffic lights going up and wondered what it was about. I think there are going to be big problems on the Ben Schoeman on Wednesday when they start. It doesn’t make sense at all,” she said.

Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald said yesterday he welcomed any moves to ease congestion on the Ben Schoeman and to make the freeway safer for people wanting to get onto it.

“We will have to monitor it to see if it works. If not, it should not run longer than necessary,” he added.