The R216-million Montrose interchange on the N4 national highway between Crocodile and Elands rivers is set to boost the economies of not just South Africa but also neighbouring Mozambique and Botswana by enhancing the movement of goods and people between the nations, according to the National Roads Agency (Sanral).
Not only that, it will also “revolutionize the experiences” of motorists, pedestrians, businesses, and communities in and around Mpumalanga.
Receiving its first upgrade in over 30 years, the Montrose interchange is nearing completion after 23 long months under construction, the lengthy timespan being necessary to “ensure road safety and mobility along the route,” said Trans African Concessions’ (TRAC) Executive Manager for Engineering and Technical, Wimpie Janse van Rensburg.
During this time, it has also “changed the lives of local small businesses and residents ” by creating 350 jobs and providing subcontracting opportunities for at least 10 companies.
A critical crossing
To keep development costs down in upgrading the Montrose interchange, TRAC partnered with engineering firm SMEC to build a 3D model of the bridge in virtual reality through the use of UAV drone photography and Bentley’s ContextCapture software, in order to collect context on the topography of the area and site logistics, as well as all the potential alternatives for the design.
TRAC then decided to change the intersection from a level cross T-Junction to a free-flow level split interchange to improve the flow of traffic as it is a critical crossing in the agency’s concession that joins Elandsvallei and Schoemanskloof on the Eastern side.
Work already completed at Montrose includes the construction of four new interchange ramps and the widening of the existing two-lane Crocodile Bridge from two to five lanes, said Van Rensburg.
In addition, two new arch bridges supported by adjacent rock-cut faces are still to be constructed to cross the existing Elands Valley section and to accommodate two new ramps. When finished, the interchange will be illuminated by five 25m-high masts for increased visibility and safety, too.
“Approximately 560m of the existing Schoemanskloof Road is being realigned to accommodate the interchange,” said Van Rensburg.
“This upgrade will ensure free-flowing movement of traffic to and from Mbombela, Schoemanskloof, and Elandsvallei in all directions.”
The new interchange is of particular importance to the taxi and large freight industries, which frequently deliver passengers and products like coal from South Africa to Mozambique and Botswana.
John Mavundla, Chairperson of Top Star Taxi Association in Mbombela, said the interchange will undoubtedly 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.
Dumisane Ngobeni, who drives a coal haulage truck between Mozambique and various mines in South Africa, said: “I really appreciate the fact that this area will be so well lit, making it safer to navigate at night.”