Johannesburg Road Agency: Keeping a major city on the move

With a population of almost four and a half million people, Johannesburg is a vast urban development, with a sprawling road network and enormous transport infrastructure pressures.

The Johannesburg Roads Agency (Pty) Ltd (JRA) came into being on January 1st, 2001, with the City of Johannesburg being the sole shareholder.

According to the JRA’s official website: “The JRA’s core competencies are the planning, design, construction, operation, control, rehabilitation and maintenance of the roads and stormwater infrastructure in the City of Johannesburg. The main responsibilities include the construction and maintenance of bridges, culverts, traffic signals, traffic signal systems, footways, road signage and road markings.”

JRA’s mandate is to plan, design, construct and maintain roads and roads infrastructure, while the company vision is to be “the best city roads authority that enables economic growth and sustainability”.

The JRA’s focus is on customer service and it has identified three key areas of service:

Traffic regulatory infrastructure, encompassing: Traffic signals management, Road signs and markings management, Road safety (infrastructure), Network monitoring, An Intelligent Transport System, Traffic engineering (geometric improvements), GIS and Accident Management Systems, Traffic signal operations and Overload control.

Road infrastructure, taking into account: Road Asset Management Systems (RAMS), Planning, Design, Maintenance, Construction, Strategic assets and Development control.

Stormwater infrastructure, including: Flood line and master planning, Storm water maintenance, Storm water network development planning, Development control, Dam safety management and In house designs (capacity building).

JRA operates within the confines of its own Customer Service Charter, available to view in the public domain.

With all projects and performance monitored, earlier this year, JRA’s Managing Director, Dr Sean Phillips, commented:

“During the 1st Quarter of 2016/17, the Johannesburg Roads Agency attained a performance of 77.22 per cent as measured against the predetermined objectives within our company scorecard.

“Our commitment to service delivery drives our efforts to streamline our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) function. We are in the process of centralising our CRM teams and restructuring reporting lines within the organisation in order to ensure consistency and quality in our responses to requests from citizens and stakeholders.

“Furthermore, we are streamlining business processes within all our maintenance teams, improving quality and productivity levels to ensure better maintenance of our City’s roads. We are also improving our management of the City’s traffic lights to reduce traffic light downtime, as well as our own internal supply chain management processes to ensure full, efficient expenditure of our budget with no shortages in stocks, which results in poor service delivery.

“We have seen great progress with our CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) projects, such as the Naledi Bridge, which has brought two communities that were separated by railway lines together. The Emmarentia Dam Rehabilitation was also recently completed.

“The biggest road project in the city, the M1 Oxford and Federation project continues to progress successfully through each of its phases. In Soweto we have three bridges that are envisaged to be upgraded by the 16th December 2016: Nxumalo, Zulu-Mahalefele, and Kinini. The bridges were previously low-lying resulting in constant flooding causing a danger to pedestrians.

“We will be constructing a new pedestrian bridge in Slovo, aimed at creating a safe link between the Coronationville and Industrial West Townships. The bridge will eliminate the danger associated with communities crossing railway lines in order to travel between the townships.

“Funds were allocated in the 2015/16 budget to improve storm water systems in high-risk areas to minimise the risk of flooding. High-risk areas in the City have been identified as Braamfischerville, Green Village, Ivory Park, Doornkop, Orlando East, Mapetla, Phiri, Diepsloot, Dobsonville, Orange Farm, Industria and North Riding. In addition the JRA is busy with the conversion of open drain systems to closed systems to further improve safety and protect residents from the impact of flash floods.

“We launched a new fleet of pothole repair trucks in June to increase our capacity. These trucks now have a protective partition between the hot asphalt and employees being transported in the trucks. They have also been designed for quicker service delivery as they can dispense hot asphalt from three sides.

“The JRA launched a Fraud and Corruption awareness campaign on the 1st of July 2016. The campaign urges employees to report any act or suspicions of fraud and corruption. Also for the protection of the City’s infrastructure, an Infrastructure Protection Unit (IPU) was launched. This is a joint project of the JRA and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

“All of these projects are aimed at improving the JRA’s service delivery to the people of Joburg.”

Of course managing the road network for a city of Johannesburg’s size is an ongoing challenge. As progress is made, or a project is completed, another issue manifests.

In April JRA announced that construction on the M1 freeway’s Oxford and Federation bridges was close to completion, with a lane switchover and new traffic implications for road users set to come into effect in may.

Dr. Phillips said, “The R127 million project is now 75 per cent complete with the majority of fill and stabilization of underground conditions completed on the south-bound section, a 3 kilometre storm water drainage system on the freeway between Rockridge Bridge and Federation Road Bridge is receiving a new lease of life, as well as on Oxford and Federation Road Bridge below the freeway. The application of protective coatings is also underway, and work will now move to the north-bound section of the M1 necessitating a switchover of lanes and further traffic disruptions should be expected.”

Traffic counts indicate approximately 4,100 vehicles travel northbound on the M1 during peak hour on a daily basis and 4,700 southbound between Jan Smuts and Oxford Road just before the construction site. Approximately 120 vehicles exit at the Oxford Road off ramp during the morning peak hour. These vehicles will be affected during the last phase of the construction programme as the Oxford road off ramp on the northbound carriageway will be closed.

In June, news broke that the Robinson Canal, one of City of Johannesburg’s oldest canals, had undergone an R8 million upgrade as part of the city-wide repair and rehabilitation of stormwater drainage systems. The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) embarked on the structural rehabilitation during the 2016/2017 financial year, in efforts to minimize urban and residential flooding.

According to the Agency, the repairs to Robinson Canal were prioritised due to the increased risk of water contamination from grey water and industrial waste water that contains high toxicity levels which are harmful to humans and the environment. When waste water containing high levels of chemicals is not properly managed, it not only has a destructive effect on the walls of the canal but also releases harmful gases into the atmosphere, endangering the local habitat with increased carbon emissions.

Transport Member of Mayoral Committee, Councillor Nonhlanhla Makhuba said: “A systematic approach was adopted in carrying out repairs and rehabilitation of Robinson Canal. Phase 1 which is estimated at R8 million focuses on repairs and rehabilitation of the open channel which services Region F, city and suburban. It extends from Main Street passing through Selby and Ophirton and ends on Lake Street. Repairs have been undertaken on the canal linings, rehabilitation of sinkholes, sludge and vegetation removal and gabion works. Multiple defects were reported as part of initial site inspection, which required the scope of work to be divided into three phases. Phase 2 of the structural repairs has been scheduled for the 2017/2018 financial year with capital expenditure budget of approximately R5 million. This phase will focus on the six month repair of the underground channel which will require a high level of safety due to the nature of trapped gases from the waste water in the lower lying structure. JRA is in the process of appointing contractors for this phase.”

Also in June, JRA indicated that the R42 million Le Roux Avenue road widening project, between Old Pretoria Road and Lyndore Avenue, was coming to its completion.

According to a press release, the upgrade of Le Roux Avenue on the K101 from a single carriageway to a dual carriageway is aimed at addressing congestion during peak periods, significantly reducing travelling times for the Midrand community.

The upgrade includes new layer works construction, rehabilitation of the existing carriageway and widening at a number of intersections.

Makhuba commented: “The total project is valued at R42 million. The widening of Le Roux Avenue commenced in March 2016, with expected project completion at the end of July 2017.”

As part of the road widening project, a relocation of services has been undertaken. Municipal stormwater pipes located on Le Roux Avenue have also been extended to suit the dual carriageway. Damaged roads signs have been replaced, new pavements have been constructed and new roads markings have been done.

JRA’s role is an ever-evolving one, as it strives to keep Johannesburg’s population on the move safely.