The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) began construction on the R816-million improvement project on the N2/M41 Mount Edgecombe interchange north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), in June 2013.

The contractor is establishing the site office and laboratory and a major electrical line is being relocated.

The project will result in the interchange being upgraded to a four-level free-flow configuration to ease congestion in the area.

The construction is jointly funded by Sanral and the KZN Department of Transport and the upgrade will take about three years to complete.

The civil construction is being undertaken by Italian construction company CMC di Ravenna, with construction being supervised by engineering and development consultant Smec South Africa.

Sanral’s contract with CMC di Ravenna stipulates minimum targets for employment from within the eThekwini municipality region, as well as for small contractors and businesses from KZN.

Sanral communications GM Vusi Mona says the proposed interchange facility will provide two additional lanes on each of the major roads and the project also includes the implementation of directional ramps, which will eliminate the need for controlled signalisation, ensuring the free flow of traffic in all directions.

“To achieve this, two bridges will be constructed on the directional ramps. One of these will be 26 m high and 947 m long, which will make it the longest incrementally launched bridge in South Africa. The second bridge will be 18 m high and 443 m long. It will be a free-flow system interchange, which is similar to how the EB Cloete spaghetti junction, in Durban, currently operates,” he states.

The upgrades have become necessary, owing to the expansion of the uMhlanga, La Lucia Ridge and the anticipated expansion of the Cornubia development. The interchange is oper- ating at capacity, with vehicles backing up on the M41 and the N2 during peak hours.

As a result, motorists experience severe delays. The existing interchange, therefore, requires a major upgrade to improve the flow to and from the N2 and the M41 to the supporting road network.

An additional 40 000 vehicles enter or leave the N2 from the M41 daily, resulting in a substantial queue of vehicles during the day, Mona reveals.

During construction, traffic will be accommodated on temporarily widened sections but major disruptions can, unfortunately, not be prevented, owing to limited space, tighter corners and reduced lane widths, which negatively affect traffic flow.

Mona urges motorists to be aware of the construction when travelling, to be observant of the advance warning signs and lane closures, and to practise caution when using this stretch of road while the upgrade is under way.

He says this may be the main challenge during the project, as frustration is an unfortunate by-product of improving roads.

“Motorists’ frustration will be addressed through education, temporary engineering, persuasion and enforcement. We will have notice boards to inform motorists where construction is taking place. We have issued a media release to encourage motorists to take note of the construction work when planning their trips and to observe the advance warning signs and lane closures when travelling through the construction work zones,” Mona says.