All reports by Ramatsiyi Moholoa
The Eastern Cape provincial government has started with the construction of the coastal route between East London and Port Elizabeth, at a cost R142 million, as part of preparations for the 2010 World Cup.
Work on the the R72 route began last Friday. It is hoped the route will make it easier for residents of East London to travel to Port Elizabeth for the 2009 Confederations Cup and World Cup.
The Buffalo City municipality is also busy with renovations to various facilities with the hope of luring some of the participating Confederations Cup and World Cup countries to set up a training base in the area.
Thobile Mhlahlo, the Eastern Cape MEC for safety, liaison, roads and transport, said the new route will also provide access for the tourism industry between the two cities and Coega.
Mhlahlo said the coastal road will run through the Ncanarha interchange on the N2 to the Nahoon interchange on the N2 in East London, covering a 30km stretch from the East London Airport to Lilyvale.
"The small villages along the route are also expected to benefit from the venture in terms of development."
Mhlahlo said the route will be favoured above the N2 through Grahamstown, because it has fewer gradients, and traffic volumes on the R72 have increased significantly in the past three years.
The project will include extending the two bridges at Bushman's River and the bridge over Kasouga River, to be completed by January 2009.
"The East London Airport, Lilyvale Road is the start of our major rehabilitation programme," said Mhlahlo. "An amount of R5 million has been budgeted for the current financial year.
"The rehabilitation of Ncanarha in Fonteinskloof is planned to start this year and be completed early in 2010."
Other sections which will be renovated include the Loverstwist and Peddie intersection and the Keiskamma River, where there are severe potholes.
"A 10km section of the R345 between Peddie and Loverstwist, where it intersects with the R72, will be reconstructed to ensure a safe link between R72 and N2."
As part of the strategy, Mhlahlo said they have mandated the South African National Roads Agency to conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of tolling certain strategic routes, with the R72 being a priority.