Pretoria - City residents and motorists have another five months to deal with traffic jams as construction continues in Thabo Sehume Street as part of the City of Tshwane’s Operation Reclaim project.
As a result of the delays in the completion of the project, businesses in the city centre are frustrated about losing customers and missing appointments.
Last September, the city started Operation Reclaim to beautify and extend the inner city. There have since been delays in the project, including when Nelson Mandela died last December.
Frustrated business owners have written to the city asking it to “speedily restore the integrity of the area and minimise the disruption to businesses”.
The chairman of the Tshwane Chamber of Commerce, Salim Yousuf, wrote to the city on Monday complaining that the construction was damaging the image of the city centre and the sustainability of businesses in the area.
“There has been no feedback from them. You cannot shut down the whole city. This is a high-density area with delivery vans and pedestrians, but the city has no contingency plan. They are not getting back to us about time frames on when this will end,” he said.
Operation Reclaim includes the beautification of Paul Kruger Street, between Scheiding Street and Church Square; relocation of taxi ranks; and beautification and widening of pavements in Lilian Ngoyi and Sisulu streets, between Madiba and Pretorius streets, as well as in Helen Joseph Street between Du Toit and Sisulu streets.
Access control is to be enforced in Lilian Ngoyi and Sisulu streets, between Pretorius and Madiba streets. This is to restrict through-traffic and create a safer pedestrian precinct. Only delivery and official vehicles will be allowed access. The programme aims to replace paving and improve safety in the inner city.
This week, pedestrians in the section of Paul Kruger Street outside the Old Synagogue were taken aback as the cement pathway suddenly had trees on it. As part of the project some of the jacaranda trees have been uprooted and moved a metre from the kerb.
The Capital City Business Chamber has labelled the construction “uncomfortable”. Capital City Business Chamber chief executive Fanie du Plessis said the current traffic jams were uncomfortable for business.
“The current construction and traffic jams are obviously very uncomfortable and definitely have specific time constraints on deliveries and travelling time to appointments. We are looking forward to the completion and positive outcomes the BRT project will in general have on the reduction of traffic jams, more cost-effective travelling and a more convenient environment for business.”
He said businesses received communication through the press and from ward councillors about the delays. As far as he understood, the delays were caused by the unusual high rainfall earlier this year and the death of Nelson Mandela. Construction on the project in Thabo Sehume Street was halted for a while in December after Madiba died.
City of Tshwane spokesman Selby Bokaba said phase one of the project started last September and only halted to prepare for Mandela’s funeral.
“In February 2014, the daunting task of relaying new water pipelines and electricity commenced.
The bad weather in February and March and numerous public holidays in April slowed down progress.
“The newly laid water pipelines in Pretorius and Madiba streets were pressure-tested successfully last week and the connections to the buildings will be done before the fourth week of this month,” he said. The deadline for the first phase was October 30.
Yesterday morning, the road was closed to motorists from the intersection of Thabo Sehume and Madiba streets after a truck got stuck just before Lilian Ngoyi Street. The metro police were only able to free the truck just after midday. Metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said no one was injured.
To add to the traffic woes caused by Operation Reclaim, the City is also busy with the bus rapid transport (A Re Yeng) construction. Recently, Church Street was closed to traffic to make way for the construction, leading to traffic jams around the city centre. The first phase of the bus system is expected to be operational in July and it will have seven stations – two in the CBD, three in Sunnyside and one each at Loftus and Hatfield. The whole A Re Yeng route will extend from Kopanong in Soshanguve, via Rainbow Junction and the CBD, ending in Mamelodi.