On average, phase one of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) is around 70% completed, says South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) GFIP project manager Alex van Niekerk.

However, he adds that this is a general figure, with some early-starter projects further advanced, and those which broke ground only recently below this mark.

“Also, one can measure a project’s advance by the money you have spent or the time that has elapsed, but as we are doing some high-cost finishing work only at the end of some contracts, these two aspects are not necessarily in sync.”

The R15,1-billion first phase of the GFIP aims to upgrade 185 km of freeway network in Gauteng, through, for example, improved lighting, upgraded interchanges, and the widening of freeways through the addition of new lanes.

Construction started in 2008.

THE R21 AND THE WORLD CUP

The abnormally high rainfall seen in January “has definitely had an impact on the project’s progress”, says Van Niekerk.

“Some of the work sites had 440 mm of rain, and days where the contractors could not work at all.”

Van Niekerk says Sanral will do an assessment later this month to determine whether GFIP first phase work is running according to schedule.

The full first phase, the open-road tolling system included, is to be operational in 2011.

“In December, things looked good, but this may now have changed,” he adds.

He says Sanral will use the assessment to determine whether the agency and the various contractors active on the project should make special arrangements to complete certain projects in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The R21 airport road and the N1 between Soweto and the 14th Avenue exit, near Soccer City, are two projects which have to be completed in time for the June kick-off, as well as certain new lane additions to other stretches of freeway, and work on some of the interchanges.

For now, Van Niekerk says the assessment is that the R21 will be open for traffic in time for the World Cup, but that some final touch-ups will remain to be done in the south-bound lanes following the sports event.

“But the public won’t even notice anything amiss,” he adds.

The R21 is being upgraded from a four-lane freeway to an eight-lane freeway.

The N1 also currently remains on schedule for completion before the World Cup.

Further phases of the GFIP will include 223 km of upgrades, and new roads of 158 km.

The final GFIP scheme will encompass 561 km.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Irma Venter
DATED: 19th February 2010