Developers of the R300-million Baywest road network have started placing the first of the 70-ton concrete beams that make up the bridge linking two sides of Port Elizabeth across the N2 freeway.
The double bridge was specifically designed to reduce construction time while ensuring maximum safety for the contractor and road users during construction.
Basil Read, which was awarded the tender to construct the road network by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) last year, is set to complete the bridge – the first across the N2 in the region in more than a decade – in record time.
The faster build means N2 motorists will be inconvenienced for a third of the usual time – four months as opposed to up to 12 months using conventional building methods. According to AECOM engineer on the project, Gerrie Albertyn, all 12 of the 70-ton concrete beams that make up the bridge were precast offsite in a controlled area.
This meant that beams could be laid six at a time, closing off each side of the N2 for just two months (four months in total). Usually, the concrete is cast on site, with scaffolding needed under the bridge to support the slab while it cures, resulting in each side of the N2 being closed for up to six months.
“In the past, casting all the concrete on site resulted in the work being exposed to the elements, which made it more difficult to achieve the tight tolerances,” he said. Albertyn said the project required absolute precision. Each 70-ton beam could be out of position by no more than 10mm when laid on the bridge bearings.
The network is expected to reduce rush-hour traffic in the city’s western suburbs.
“At the moment there is a lot of congestion around the Makro interchange along Samantha Way and Frikkie Kotze Drive. This network will give people a link onto the N2 and later up to Cape Road,” Albertyn said.
The extension of Walker Drive and the road circling Baywest Mall, as well as the two on-ramps and two off-ramps leading to and from the mall from the N2, were set for completion by next March. The connection to Cape Road – the first phase of the long-awaited Redhouse-Chelsea arterial route – would be completed by October next year.
Baywest managing director Gavin Blows welcomed the milestone, saying it prepared the area for the future growth of the city, in line with the municipality’s 2020 vision. “This road network has been a long time coming and will help unlock economic growth in the city’s western suburbs,” Blows said.
“This bridge represents a critical link between two sides of Port Elizabeth, and it points towards exciting and much-needed economic growth in the city,” he said.