The upgrade of the N2 will focus on a 55km stretch from Lovu River on the South Coast to eMdloti on the North Coast. The N3 upgrade will focus on an 80km section from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.
Ravi Ronny, the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) eastern region design, planning and construction manager, said the upgrades would include widening the N2 and N3 carriageways, with four or five lanes in each direction, and reconfiguration of most major interchanges along the stretches.
“The upgrades are expected to take between five to eight years to complete, depending on funding availability. The estimated construction costs are R10bn for the N2 and R18.4bn for the N3. This excludes the cost for the N3 realignment around Town Hill in Pietermaritzburg, which is being separately investigated,” Ronny said.
The projects are expected to produce more than 15000 jobs. Noise-reducing asphalt mixes would be used.
Ronny said dangerous curves would be reconfigured and unsafe intersections redesigned.
Also in line for improvement is the EB Cloete Interchange (Spaghetti Junction), which will have an arch constructed to support the N3 carriageway as well as the fly-over directional ramps.
The arch will resonate with the arch theme of Moses Mabhida Stadium, and will become a landmark for motorists entering Durban.
The existing N3 between Key Ridge and Cliffdale has steep slopes and tight curves. These, coupled with the presence of the Peacevale Interchange, contributed to a high crash rate within this section of the N3, said Ronny.
The upgrade project allowed for a 1.7km realignment of the N3 to reduce the slopes and remove the curves.
Ronny said the upgrades aimed to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa’s main industrial hubs, improve access to Durban’s export and import facilities, and improve efficiency along the Durban-Free State-Gauteng corridor.
He said the projects could be broken down into smaller projects of a “reasonable” size based on available budgets, resources and other constraints, and also taking into consideration the impact on motorists during construction.
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Palesa Phili said upgrading the N3 and N2 was critical to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the two regional corridors.
“Furthermore, the N3 corridor is a critical link between South Africa’s national economic hubs as well as neighbouring countries which are reliant on the regional ports.
“South Africa is heavily reliant on the transport and logistics sector, especially trucks, as almost 90% of freight is transported via roads and almost half of all road freight is transported along the N3 alone,” she said.
Phili said the N2 connected the two provincial ports and provided links to neighbouring countries.
“Upgrading these corridors will create capacity ahead of demand, create better access to KZN’s key ports, facilitate regional trade and integrate the currently disconnected industrial and logistics activities. Additionally, upgrading the N3 and N2 will improve operating costs for business across industries as well as the overall ease of doing business,” said Phili.
She said the N3 and N2 upgrade had the potential to boost the economy in terms of job-creation and national gross domestic product contribution as well as reduce the overall costs of doing business.
Any upgrade to the N3 corridor should be accompanied by concrete programmes to ensure the safety and security of road users and road infrastructure.
“The Durban chamber and organised business await communication of the government’s specific plans around upgrading this strategic corridor in order to ensure that they are aligned with real business needs and are responsive to real economic pressure points being experienced. It is crucial to focus on projects which yield the greatest economic returns,” she said.
Midlands Chamber of Business chief executive Melanie Veness said the economic benefits of the upgrade would be diminished if the burning of trucks was not addressed.
“The upgrade will certainly make logistics easier and will facilitate better trade, contributing positively to the local economy.”