Sandton's BRT infrastructure roll-out on track

JDA development manager Siyabonga Genu briefs the mediaJDA development manager Siyabonga Genu briefs the media at the construction site of the multi-million rand BRT flyover bridge across the M1 highway. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)

From dedicated BRT lanes feeding into an M1 flyover bridge to a new public transport loop supported by a network of pedestrian and cycling pathways - the City of Joburg's eco-mobile infrastructure roll-out in Sandton is well on track. Elias Nkabinde reports.

Wide-angle shot of the BRT bridgeWide-angle shot of the BRT bridge currently under construction. (Photo supplied - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)City of Joburg and Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) officials conducted a media tour on Tuesday, 5 April to showcase the progress being made on the roll-out of bus rapid transit (BRT) and associated infrastructure in Sandton, Marlboro and Alexandra.

The tour was led by Transport MMC Christine Walters, Development and Planning MMC Roslyn Greeff, Executive Director of Transport Lisa Seftel and JDA development manager Siyabonga Genu.Wide-angle aerial photograph of the BRT bridgeWide-angle aerial photograph of the BRT bridge. (Photo supplied - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)

Rebalancing the streets for all road users

"The City continues to make good progress with the successful implementation of Rea Vaya BRT infrastructure in Alexandra, Marlboro and Sandton," MMC Walters told journalists during a pre-tour briefing.

In the process, the MMC said, the City was busy rebalancing the streets for all road users, and laying down the backbone for a city-wide network of well-planned transport arteries - the Corridors of Freedom - where the focus is on mixed-use development.

"Johannesburg residents will no longer have to use private motorised transport but can opt for alternative modes on dedicated safe routes which include cycling, BRT and pedestrian walkways," MMC Walters said.

Lisa Seftel, Roslyn Greeff, Christine Walters, Thanduxolo Mendrew and Siyabonga GenuLisa Seftel, the City's Executive Director of Transport, Development and Planning MMC Roslyn Greeff, Transport MMC Christine Walters, JDA CEO Thanduxolo Mendrew and JDA development manager Siyabonga Genu during the media briefing. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)She added that City was proud that, through the BRT infrastructure roll-out in Sandton, Marlboro and Alexandra, more than 1 000 jobs had been created and more than 24 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) empowered.

The JDA, as implementing agent for the City's Department of Transport, is facilitating and overseeing the BRT roll-out.

Following the briefing, JDA development manager Siyabonga Genu led members of the media on the tour, which took in the Sandspruit Bridge, the Marlboro interchange, the BRT trunk route on Katherine Street, the Rea Vaya BRT flyover bridge, and the Sandton CBD public transport loop and associated pedestrian and cycling interventions.

New Sandspruit Bridge: from two lanes to six

Roughly 700 metres before Rea Vaya's trunk route peels off Katherine Street onto the M1 flyover bridge, a new bridge is being built to replace the old bridge over the Sandspruit River.

The completed first section of the new Sandspruit BridgeThe completed first section of the new Sandspruit Bridge on Katherine Street in Sandton. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)The new Sandspruit Bridge will be both higher and considerably wider than the old bridge, and therefore better protected when the Sandspruit River is in flood: the raising of the bridge has allowed for the establishment of more storm water capacity and additional embankment stabilisation and protection.

The old, two lane-bridge was also completely unsuited to the volumes of traffic that traverse the Katherine Street stretch between Grayston and Marlboro Drives daily. The new, six-lane bridge will bring an end to traffic bottlenecks at this point, while opening the way for the BRT route that the JDA is laying down along Katherine Street.

Construction of the new bridge began in November 2014. In November 215 the new western section of the bridge was completed and opened to traffic, allowing for the demolition of the old bridge and the start of work on the central and eastern sections, which are due for completion in September 2016.

Katherine Street, Marlboro Drive widened, upgraded

The Katherine Street-Marlboro Drive artery in SandtonThe expansion of the Rea Vaya BRT network to Alexandra and Sandton will not only benefit public transport commuters. The Katherine Street-Marlboro Drive artery in Sandton is a prime example of this. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)The construction of the Rea Vaya Phase 1C trunk route connecting Alexandra to Sandton is currently under way. For ease of implementation, this section has been divided into three subsections, West Street and Katherine Street up to Grayston, Grayston to Marlboro, and the new BRT M1 flyover.

The BRT infrastructure roll-out along West Street and Katherine Street up to Grayston Drive has been completed, barring the construction of the new Rea Vaya stations, which is expected to start around June-July.

Apart from the central dedicated BRT lane, the roll-out included the widening of Katherine from four to six lanes, so that motorists will not be disadvantaged by the BRT lane.

In addition, pedestrian walkways were widened from 1.8 metres to a minimum of 3 metres, new streetlights were installed and associated service infrastructure upgraded.

And the JDA's road widening and resurfacing, and accompanying kerbside and sidewalk upgrades, continues along Katherine Street beyond the point where the BRT route peels off onto the M1 flyover, all the way to Marlboro Drive and up to the M1 onramps.

This section has been completed and includes a widened intersection where Katherine meets Marlboro: there are now three right-turning lanes into Marlboro in place of just two. These lead into a widened eastbound section of Marlboro Drive, with a new fast lane, extending to the southbound onramp to the M1.

JDA development manager Siyabonga Genu briefs the mediaJDA development manager Siyabonga Genu briefs the media during their bus ride from West Street, where the BRT trunk route begins/ends, down Katherine Street through to Marlboro Drive and back to the BRT bridge construction site off Katherine. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde)This upgrade aims to relieve traffic congestion at the Grayston Drive and Katherine intersection and improve traffic flow off Katherine Street into the Marlboro interchange.

For the many Joburgers who work in the Sandton CBD and surrounding suburbs, and whose daily commute home is via the M1, this work will bring welcome relief from traffic congestion. It also resulted in the creation of more than 200 short-term jobs.

BRT flyover: bridging the Alex, Sandton divide

There are in fact two new cable-stay bridges being built over the M1 as part of the BRT network expansion, but Tuesday's tour focused not on the cycling-pedestrian bridge alongside Grayston Drive, but on the BRT flyover bridge about 1.5 kilometres further north.

There'll be a whole new "generation" of BRT commuters when Rea Vaya's Sandton, Alexandra, central Joburg route starts operating in 2017 - and one of the pleasures they can look forward to is crossing the M1 highway on this spectacular BRT-only bridge.

The media tour arrives at the BRT bridge construction siteThe media tour arrives at the BRT bridge construction site. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)Coming from the Sandton CBD, Rea Vaya's buses will ease along Katherine Street on a traffic-bypassing BRT lane all the way from West Street until about one kilometre past Grayston Drive, where they will peel off onto the curving, gradually rising western ramp leading onto the M1 flyover.

On the other side of the highway, Rea Vaya's buses will descend via the eastern ramp onto Lees Street, close to where it intersects with Pretoria Main Road, then take a right into the BRT lane headed first to Alex and then on via Louis Botha Avenue to Hillbrow and Parktown.

It's a major piece of engineering and construction. From ramp entry to ramp exit, the BRT flyover will stretch approximately 255 metres, including the 60 to 70 metres spanned by the cable-stayed bridge itself. It will be between 8 and 13 metres wide, while the two doubly braced main pylons supporting the cables will stand about 52 metres high.

The ascending/descending ramp connections, for their part, will be supported by a series of giant reinforced concrete bases on either side of the highway.

tour7 300Resident Engineer Trevor Nxumalo provides a detailed briefing on the new bridge. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)Construction of the multi-million rand bridge got under way in March 2015 and is scheduled for completion in November/December 2016 - and as of now it's looking well on schedule, with the ramp bases mostly complete, the "super beams" over the highway in place, preparations under way for the laying of the concrete deck, and the twin pylons climbing higher by the day.

Pedestrian and cycling pathways

The construction of cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways to promote mobility in the Sandton CBD, also due for completion in November 2016, is making good progress as well.

The section along Linden Road from Katherine Street to Rivonia Road has been completed, with work ongoing or soon to commence on sections in Maude Street, Fredman Drive, Fifth Street, West Street and Rivonia Road.

The new cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways, along with widened sidewalks, new street lighting and furniture and improved signage, will promote the "complete street" concept, a modern global trend in urban design which regards road networks and transport systems as social infrastructure meant to serve the entire community, including but not privileging the private transport user.

Sandton CBD Public Transport Loop

bridge brt2 300March 2016 photo of the bridge under construction, taken from the north. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VERSION)The Public Transport Loop in the Sandton CBD will travel along Rivonia Road from Sandton Drive to Fredman Drive, along Fredman between Rivonia Road and Fifth Street, and along Fifth between Fredman and Rivonia Road.

Construction is currently under way along Fredman Drive, along Maude Street between West and Rivonia Street, and along West Street.

Six emerging contractors have been engaged as part of the construction team, creating more than 200 short-term jobs.

A more accessible, people-friendly Sandton

Addressing the media at the conclusion of the tour, MMC Greeff said the creation of new high-capacity public transport corridors, supported by "complete streets" and improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, was aimed not only at improving mobility but also at reshaping land-use patterns to promote a more inclusive, liveable, sustainable Johannesburg.

"We are making the Sandton CBD accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users. We hope to change the face of Sandton, so that it is easy, safe and quick to enter and so that the present traffic jams are a thing of the past," MMC Greeff said.

"Rea Vaya infrastructure, and in particular the amazing work that has been delivered thus far as part of Phase 1C of this, is key in the realisation of the vision of the Louis Botha Corridor of Freedom."