Johannesburg – Joburg bridges are crumbling under the wheels of motorists – literally – with only 6% of the city’s bridges in good condition.
The City of Joburg announced on Monday that both the Selby and Kaserne bridges had deteriorated to such an extent that they have to close the entire M2 between the Crown Interchange and Maritzburg Street for almost the entire year.
Although the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) says it has put numerous, well-marked alternative routes in place and will have officers conducting traffic, motorists are expected to experience long delays while the traffic is diverted to other routes.
Work is already being done on the bridges in the easterly direction, so the plan is to complete both projects by the end of October.
Mayor Herman Mashaba said the decision had been painful for him, as this was a major route.
A guide to road closures.
“However, people are risking their lives using this freeway. I know residents and motorists are going to hate me for the delays, but I would rather face that than have one of the bridges collapsing and people losing lives.
“This became an emergency situation after engineers re-inspected the bridges, which were to be repaired at a later stage, but had become extremely dangerous within the past year,” Mashaba said.
“This is a crisis situation. Some of our bridges have not been maintained since 1994. Many are over 50 years old. We actually need R6.2billion just to repair our bridges only, a budget which we do not have. We will now have to reprioritise the funds by using money for other bridges to repair the ones which are in the worst condition,” he added.
Engineer and head of the JRA’s planning department, Thomas Chongo, said the lack of maintenance over the years had led to the deterioration.
This was in addition to cracks in the concrete bases which led to water seeping into the concrete, which, in turn, was causing a chemical reaction corroding the cement even further.
The fact that homeless people squatting near the freeway were constantly vandalising the highway and blocking water escape routes with clothes and blankets did not help, he said.
The implementation of the full closure will start on Thursday from 6am.
In a survey conducted in 2017, it was also found that 3900km of Joburg’s road network falls into the poor or very poor condition.
The overall acceptable condition indices for bridges in a very good and good condition should be a minimum of 80% – but currently only 5.7% of city bridges are in this condition.
Some 78.38% of city bridges are in a poor or very poor condition.
This means the conditions of the bridges have deteriorated at an alarming state. Since 2013, a total of 37 bridges have collapsed during raining seasons.
Mashaba added that R138m had been allocated to repair all Rea Vaya bus routes.