The R216 million Montrose interchange – a revolution on the N4 – nears completion.

The R216 million Montrose interchange – a revolution on the N4 – nears completion.

Its construction has already changed the lives of local small businesses and residents by providing much-needed jobs, and the soon-to-be completed R216 million Montrose Interchange is about to revolutionarise the experiences of motorists, pedestrians, businesses and communities around Mpumalanga.

Not only that. The interchange, which is receiving its first upgrade in 30 years and nestles between the Crocodile as well as the Elands rivers on the N4 National Road, is set to also boost the economies of three countries – South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana – by enhancing the movement of goods and people.

According to TRAC’s Executive Manager for Engineering and Technical, Wimpie Janse van Rensburg, the 23-month long project was necessary to ensure road safety and mobility along the route.

“The existing level cross T-Junction is being upgraded to a free flow level split interchange as Montrose is a critical crossing in the TRAC concession as it joins Elandsvallei and Schoemanskloof on the Eastern side where the route splits,” he said.

The Montrose Interchange connects two high speed freeways and forms part of the N4 Maputo Development Corridor. According to TRAC, which manages the N4 on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL), the upgrade is aimed at ensuring road safety and mobility along the route while also improving trade between South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.

The interchange has created 350 jobs and provided subcontracting opportunities for at least 10 local companies.

Work on the interchange includes the construction of four new interchange ramps and the widening of the existing two-lane Crocodile Bridge from two to five lanes. In addition, two new arch bridges supported by adjacent rock cut faces will be constructed to cross the existing Elands Valley section and to accommodate two new ramps.

Five 25m-high masts will illuminate the interchange, increasing visibility and road safety. Approximately 560m of the existing Schoemanskloof Road is being realigned to accommodate the interchange. This upgrade will ensure free flowing movement of traffic to and from Mbombela, Schoemanskloof and Elandsvallei in all directions.

The interchange has been welcomed by the taxi industry, which transports thousands of commuters on a daily basis. John Mavundla, Chairperson of Top Star Taxi Association in Mbombela said the interchange would improve the experience of drivers and passengers using the N4 toll road. “We’re very happy that TRAC continues to upgrade the N4, making it safer and easier to use. Our drivers spend many hours traveling up and down the N4 so the state of this road has a direct impact on how they do their work,” he said.

For Dumisane Ngobeni, who drives a coal haulage truck between Mozambique and various mines in South Africa, the construction of the interchange is a welcomed addition to the N4. “I really appreciate the fact that this area will be so well lit, making it safer to navigate at night.

Nothando Sithole, a business owner who frequently travels between Mbombela and Gauteng, said she was happy to see that the construction of the Montrose Interchange would soon be completed. “I use the N4 a lot and I’ve always been disappointed by the nature of the Schoemanskloof and Elandsvallei split in Mbombela, especially during peak traffic periods. I think this new Interchange will make navigating the N4 so much easier,” said Sithole.

Sithole’s sentiments were echoed by Mbombela-based photographer, Bongani Ndlovu, who only recently became aware of the construction of the Montrose Interchange as he’d been using alternative routes to avoid the split. “I join the N4 in Ngodwana, using the Kaapsehoop road from Mbombela to avoid possible congestion at the Schoemanskloof turn-off and was surprised to see how much had been done in the past year to improve that area,” he said.

According to Van Rensburg, while the upgrading of the interchange will lead to improved traffic mobility and safety of road users, no major pedestrian facilities are catered for or foreseen. “Pedestrians are not permitted to walk along freeways and it is not encouraged,” he said.