Roads are something we use every day. Whether it’s for going to work, school or anything in-between, the quality infrastructure of roads are detrimental to our safety. So what do you do when they start to fall apart?

Road infrastructure in Johannesburg, South Africa, is currently under threat. 94% of bridges are in just fair to extremely poor condition meaning out of 902 bridges, only 6% are acceptable. 707 bridges are categorized as poor to very poor in terms of structural integrity. These statistics were released by the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) and Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba.

Mashaba spoke to Carte Blanche about the bridges, saying:

“You drive over them or underneath them at your own risk. It is a scary situation. I have engineers on a regular basis that go and look at the condition [of the bridges]. Where am I going to get 6 and half billion Rand to fix them overnight?”

In 2018, there was an emergency sectional closure of the M2 Selby Bridge to prevent further stress on the aging infrastructure. However the diverted traffic is now crossing over bridges which, according to local engineering experts, are also structurally unsound.

Unfortunately, Johannesburg’s government is lacking the resources to upgrade the quality of the roads. Mashaba blames the previous government of the city - that government being the ANC. Now, Johannesburg has been taken over by the Democratic Alliance and they sit with the maintenance shortfalls.

The JRA says that the rise in population and developments in the city has caused more traffic, which in the long term has adverse effects on bridges. The JRA also reported that some bridges had even reached the end of their design lifespan.

And it doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, for the safety of the people of Johannesburg, there is proven corruption within the Johannesburg Roads Agency. The tender process that is supposed to delegate the task of repairing bridges with monetary compensation to construction contractors is being done irregularly. Consequently, there is a bottlenecking of the maintenance and repair of bridges. The bridges could be ticking time bombs if more rain is expected - Johannesburg's city transport department confirmed that 37 bridges had collapsed during storms since 2013.

Equally perturbing is the fact that the JRA has not released to the media or the public a list of bridges that need urgent attention however it is evident that at least some work is being done. On the 25th March 2019 a R6-million (about $424,000 USD) project saw rehabilitated roads opened in Ivory Park near Midrand. This has included underground storm water management systems to ensure a longer life span for the bridges.

With slow maintenance and repairs, the chances of loss of life from potential collapses grow with every hour that goes by. The hope is that the right companies with the right civil engineers get contracted to maintain and repair the many bridges that need serious attention in Johannesburg.

 

Works Cited

Arnoldi, Marleny. “JRA Completes Two Ivory Park Road Upgrades, More to Follow.” Engineering News, www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/jra-completes-two-ivory-park-road-upgrades-more-to-follow-2019-03-25.

“Fraud and Corruption Inside the Johannesburg Roads Agency | Carte Blanche | M-Net.” YouTube, 2 Apr. 2019, youtu.be/36usxDDZGIA.

Tonisi, Lelethu. “Structural Decay: Crumbling Bridges: M2 Closure Adds to Joburg Commuter Stress.” Daily Maverick, Daily Maverick, 14 Mar. 2019, www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-03-14-crumbling-bridges-m2-closure-adds-to-joburg-commuter-stress/.

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