The N3 Corridor has got off the starting blocks: the 84km freeway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg – KwaZulu-Natal’s Gateway to Africa – is planned to be upgraded in phases over the next 8 to 10 years.
Phase1, which includes the critical sections between Cato Ridge and Pietermaritzburg, the Key Ridge realignment and the EB Cloete to Paradise Valley section, will be upgraded over the next five years.
Detailed designs are being drawn up for the reconstruction of the N3 between Durban and Cedara at an estimated cost of between R22 and R24 billion. The plans include a ring-road around Pietermaritzburg to avoid the notorious Town Hill section of the N3.
SANRAL Eastern Region design and construction manager Ravi Ronny said the N3 Corridor is essential if one of government’s strategic integrated projects linking the Port of Durban with Gauteng, South Africa’s economic heartland, is to succeed.
“Environmental impact assessments are also being commissioned while routes are being plotted to increase the capacity and safety of the freeway which will have up to four and even five lanes in each direction over certain sections,” said Ronny.
Major realignment of the highway will take place at Key Ridge and Town Hill where the steep grades cause major traffic congestion, especially when heavy-duty vehicles are on the road.
If the upgrades do not go ahead, it is estimated that users of the N3 will continue to suffer losses of nearly R800 million per annum – due to crashes and time delays. R775 million can be attributed to time delays and between R250 000 and R295 000 per hour to accidents and road closures due to crashes.
Twelve proposed new routes are being investigated to eliminate the problems at Town Hill. A 14 km ring-road around Pietermaritzburg and north-east of the current N3 alignment is being considered as one of the more favoured routes.
Ronny said the N3 carries in excess of 40 000 vehicles per day around Pietermaritzburg and consists of a mix of urban commuter traffic, long distance traffic and a substantial number of heavy vehicles, with some sections in excess of 25% heavy vehicles.
“In excess of 40 million tons of freight per annum is carried on the N3 corridor, with approximately 9 000 heavy vehicles using the national road per day.
“Durban is by far South Africa’s busiest port with over 80% of goods moving along this corridor by road.
“Therefore, the need to consider the best economic solutions to ensure the seamless flow of freight is very important to this corridor,” said Ronny, adding any blockage on the N3 causing its closure was tantamount to a national crisis.