Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

COMMUTERS and motorists in Johannesburg will have to add over 30 minutes to their journey times and also consider alternative routes and public transport as the city begins the latest phase of its R200m programme to rehabilitate three bridges on the M1 freeway, among other work.

The project is expected to be completed in May next year, according to the Johannesburg Roads Agency.

The rehabilitation programme is part of a R110bn plan, announced in 2013, to upgrade road infrastructure over 10 years.

An assessment done by the roads agency in 2014 showed that over R5bn would be needed to address defects on the city’s bridges. The agency is responsible for 889 bridges in the city.

The M1 freeway is viewed as a key arterial route and carries over 80,000 private cars daily, along with commercial traffic and public transport vehicles such as mini-bus taxis and buses.

The planned rehabilitation work includes structural repairs, as well as asphalt surfacing and the erection of new road signs on the double-decker section of the M1 between Carr and Anderson streets in the inner city. A 2km section of dual-carriage freeway between Rockridge and Federation roads will be rehabilitated and the existing stormwater drainage system replaced.

Member of the mayoral committee for transport Christine Walters said the city had put measures in place to deal with the traffic congestion due to construction work. Construction work would also be done on the M2 freeway, Crown Mines and the Naledi bridge, she said

Johannesburg Roads Agency acting MD Mpho Kau said there would be lane reductions on the northbound and southbound M1 freeway between the St Andrews off-ramp and Killarney until the end of the year.

The southern on-ramp and northern off-ramp to Oxford Road from the M1 would be closed from April, he said. Certain lanes on the double-decker section would be closed on weekdays during off-peak morning and afternoon hours. Construction work would be stepped up in the evenings and on weekends.

Mr Kau said the rehabilitation programme, when completed, would not increase the capacity on the M1 freeway. However, he said last year that the agency had started "capacity improvement assessments" on all the city’s freeways, which include the M1, M2 and the Soweto Highway.

"In the very near future we will be able to share the outcome of that exercise which will indicate how we intend to deal with capacity challenges, especially along the double-decker section," he said.

Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department chief superintendent Wayne Minnaar said the department would work closely with the construction company and would have tow-trucks on standby to ensure any incidents were cleared immediately.