The Department of Transport has put aside R55-billion as part of the government’s plan to improve traffic flow on Gauteng highways, it said on Wednesday.

Department spokesperson Collen Msibi said the Highway Improvement Scheme would take effect in phases to expand the carrying capacity of existing roads and to also further expansions of the highway network.

The existing highway network of 180km would be upgraded through additional lanes and major interchange improvements.

“The environmental-impact assessment has already begun on the various sections of the highway network,” said Msibi.

“The social- and economic-impact assessments are also under way and work has already begun from the Flying Saucer [R21] interchange up to the Atterbury interchange.”

Gauteng highways carry more than 180 000 vehicles per day. In this regard more than R12-billion will be invested in the first phase of this project, due for completion by 2010.

“For the second phase, which is due for completion in 2015, we will invest R20-billion, and R23-billion for the final phase to be completed in 2018,” said Msibi.

The project will be financed through the “user-pay” principle without resorting to the national fiscus.

He said toll technologies to allow free flow of traffic at tolling points would also be introduced. However, public consultation would be undertaken beforehand.

“The tolling of the road system will begin in 2010/11, through the building of 47 gantries on existing roads, approximately 11km apart.”

The department was confident that the project would create more than 30 000 direct jobs.