Councillor Nonhlanhla Helen Makhuba, member of the mayoral committee for transport in Johannesburg, gets the roadworks under way at Main Reef Road. Picture: MARK SMYTH
Councillor Nonhlanhla Helen Makhuba, member of the mayoral committee for transport in Johannesburg, gets the roadworks under way at Main Reef Road. Picture: MARK SMYTH

Main Reef Road is one of the most famous roads in Johannesburg and possibly in SA. For many it is because it is a name they hear regularly in traffic bulletins on the radio as they sit in a queue of traffic, but it is more than just a major arterial road.

It was built way back in 1890 to connect various mining areas, but it is what is beneath it that many will not know. The road follows the line of the original Witwatersrand, which is part of the continental divide. As the peak of a plateau, on one side the water table runs into the Vaal River system and eventually to the Atlantic. On the other side the water travels to the Crocodile and Limpopo rivers on its way to the Indian Ocean. At a stretch, it is almost Joburg’s own point of two oceans.

You can thank a speech writer for that information because I learnt this while standing on the intersection of Main Reef Road and the M2 listening to a speech by Councillor Nonhlanhla Helen Makhuba, member of the mayoral committee for transport in Johannesburg.

Ceremony

Makhuba was speaking at the sod-turning ceremony marking the start of an improvement to this busy intersection that will run until November.

"The city has undertaken a comprehensive study of the entire road network taking into account the linkages between city roads and the provincial and national freeway system," she said. "We are re-evaluating current traffic densities and congestion along all of these roads and evaluate how these patterns fit into the city’s spatial development framework, public transport and the movement of passengers and freight."

This is great, but what you really want to know is what is being done and how will it affect you if you travel through this vital intersection every day.

Mpho Kau, head of business infrastructure development at the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), outlined the work which he says is essential as constant congestion impacts on the efficiency of the city.

The construction will create additional lanes, while existing ones will be upgraded. There will be new continuous slip roads to enhance traffic flow and new drainage will also be installed. In addition traffic signals will be upgraded along with signage and road markings.

The expectation will be that the construction will cause more congestion, but JRA spokeswoman Bertha Scheepers advised that recent changes have seen the agency start utilising companies that are willing to work at night. A result of this is that the Main Reef Road construction will only take place between 7pm and 5am every night until November. More work conducted at night will be a great relief to many and reflects international best practice when it comes to road repairs and construction.

Night work

The move to more night work will be welcomed by many and even prompted this response when we tweeted from the sod-turning ceremony: "Yeah, this (Herman) Mashaba chap is disturbing our night crawls with all this work. Where does he get off engaging in good governance."

Avoiding getting into politics, the shift toward best practice can only be good for road users who are faced with increasing congestions, declining attitudes towards driving behaviour and ageing infrastructure. The latter is a key issue of the city, stressed Makhuba.

"Joburg infrastructure is crumbling and has been left to decay by the old administration," she says. "Roads do more than just linking people to places. Local and international investors make decisions based on the quality of infrastructure."

She emphasised that investment and upgrades across Johannesburg are vital to ensure that the city achieves 5% economic growth. There remains a great deal of work to do, but as motorists we certainly hope to see even more improvements on the road ahead.

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