The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has started work on a major overhaul of the 87km portion of the N3 national highway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, which will be upgraded over the next eight to ten years.
The infrastructure project is a key development that will have a massive impact on the wider economy, as the route is one of the busiest in the country, connecting the port in Durban with Gauteng – South Africa’s economic hub.
Phase 1 of the upgrade will focus on the stretch between Pietermaritzburg and Cato Ridge, Sanral said, along with the section between Paradise Valley and the EB Cloete intersections (the ‘Spaghetti Junction’), and the realignment of the Key Ridge section.
This will be at a cost of between R22 billion and R24 billion, developed over the next five years.
As the route is one of the busiest and most freight-heavy routes in the country, specific attention is being given to those areas that present the biggest danger, including the notorious Town Hill section, which has a steep grade that poses troubles for trucks and other heavy load vehicles.
The roads agency said it was considering 12 different route solutions to circumvent this tricky section of the trip to Durban, one of which is a 14 km ring road around Pietermaritzburg, which is currently the favoured option.
According to Sanral, in excess of 40 million tons of freight per annum are carried on the N3 corridor around Pietermaritzburg, with approximately 9,000 heavy vehicles using the national road per day.
The route carried over 40,000 vehicles per day.
Development on the overhaul will be conducted in packages, with each taking 36 months to 42 months to complete. Sanral said it has been directed to prioritise the project and construction on critical areas must commence within two years.