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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

An accident waiting to happen: Joburg’s bridges crumbling, but no money to fix them

The Johannesburg Roads Agency’s annual report shows that 90% of the city’s bridges were in poor condition.

The City of Johannesburg’s bridges are crumbling and there is no money to fix them.

This is according to Johannesburg MMC for transport Kenny Kunene who spoke to The Citizen about the deplorable state of the city’s bridges and roads, relegating Johannesburg to what he called “not a world class African city”.

The Johannesburg Roads Agency’s (JRA) 2021/2022 annual report, which was tabled this month, shows that 90% of the city’s bridges were found to be in poor condition.

Bridges crumbling

According to the report, at least 14 bridges have been flagged as high priority, and only 5.77% of the city’s bridges are classified as good or very good, while over 94% are either fair, poor or very poor.

A service bridge over the N1 highway, near Stormill in Roodepoort, is seen with heavy erosion to its foundations, 8 February 2023. Picture: Michel Bega/The Citizen
A service bridge over the N1 highway, near Stormill in Roodepoort, is seen with heavy erosion to its foundations, 8 February 2023. Picture: Michel Bega/The Citizen

The JRA said some of the more critical bridges include, among others, the three inner city bridges Queen Elizabeth, Biccard and Harrison Bridges, Kilburn Bridge, Belgrave Bridge, West Road Bridge, Pier Road Bridge, Maphumulo Bridge and Mmila and Vincent series bridges.

“The rehabilitation of all bridge structures along the M1 and M2 are also deemed critical. It is worth noting that West Road Bridge, Canterbury Road Bridge and Pier Road Bridge have been completely closed-off due to safety concerns.

“The replacement and rehabilitation of bridges is underway for M2 Joints Replacement, Modderfontein Bridge, 5th Road Bridge, Canterbury Culvert Bridge, Mzimhlophe Pedestrian Bridge, and Indlovu Bridge Repairs projects. A total of six bridges have been rehabilitated and reconstructed to date,” it said.

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No money for repairs

Kunene, who has only been at his post for about four weeks, told The Citizen the R110 million left in the annual budget for 2022/23 financial year does not cover the repairs of the crumbling bridges in Johannesburg.

“With the little budget that we have, we had a look at what we can do to those bridges that are critical. But we can never do it on the budget that we are given in the financial year. So, we have to go tap into other grants and say these are the challenges that we are sitting with.

“Fortunately, my people have got the information and the budget required and we have to go to Treasury and say give us a grant and this is what we can do in the next three years,” Kunene said.

Hans Schoeman Street bridge over the N1 in Randburg. Picture: Michel Bega/The Citizen
Damage can be seen under the Hans Schoeman Street bridge over the N1 in Randburg, 7 February 2023. Picture: Michel Bega/The Citizen

Joburg ‘not a world class African city’

Kunene said Johannesburg was supposed to be a world-class African city.

“That’s what everyone is calling it, but the road infrastructure in the City of Johannesburg is not world class, that’s a fact. I have said to my team ‘let us stop lying to people, let us tell people the truth’.

“So that even national and provincial government can begin to understand the challenges on our roads. Potholes are but just a drop in the ocean. Our roads infrastructure needs to be overhauled, stormwater drainage is a problem, overloading of heavy vehicles, and uncontrolled excavations on the road network are a recipe for potholes,” Kunene said.

The JRA report also said more than half of the city’s roads were classified as fair, poor or very poor.

Kunene said this was because most of Johannesburg’s roads had exceeded their 25-year lifespan.

Kunene added that he has engaged the Gauteng MEC for Transport and Logistics, Kedibone Diale-Tlabela, and other officials to discuss how to improve Johannesburg’ once again a world class African city’s infrastructure.

ALSO READ: Crumbling infrastructure contributing to South Africa’s poor road safety – AA

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