The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has awarded seven contracts worth R11,5-billion for the upgrade of 125,5 km of road in the first phase of its Gauteng freeway improvement project (GFIP).

The upgrade, which Sanral said had been prioritised for completion in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, would be taking place over the next 36 months on sections of road between the N1 from Soweto to the N4 in Pretoria, on the N3 from Alberton to the Buccleuch interchange, sections of the N12 south of Johannesburg, as well as the N12 from the Gillooly’s interchange to the R21 leading to Boksburg.

The agency said it would do a final assessment of the progress of works on these stretches of road, in February 2010.

Sanral said traffic in the Gauteng area had reached the stage where heavy congestion inhibited economic growth, which led to frustration and loss of productivity of road users, and damaged the environment through excessive emissions.

In response to the growing strain on the province’s road networks, Sanral proposed a solution to Gauteng’s traffic congestion to the Minister of Transport, the Gauteng province, as well as metropolitan councils in 2005.

This resulted in the development of the GFIP, which entails the upgrade and construction of 561 km of road to improve the movement of freight and road-based public transport.

The GFIP was being undertaken in cooperation with a number of spheres of government, with the involvement of the Ekhurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg metros, as well as the provincial and national governments.

The project would involve the provision of additional lanes, interchange improvements and intelligent transport management systems, such as cameras, ramp metering and electronic signage.

The newly awarded contracts followed the contract for the upgrade of the N1 between the R21 interchange and the Atterbury interchange, east of Pretoria, which was awarded in mid-2007 and where construction was well under way.