Joburg's R160m M1 double-decker bridge repair 'a waste of money'

Gauteng government roads and transport committee says it has not ruled out a probe into the project

Paul Ash Senior reporter
The section of the M1 double-decker bridge where flooding issues remain, despite the R169m refurbishment.
The section of the M1 double-decker bridge where flooding issues remain, despite the R169m refurbishment.
Image: City of Johannesburg via Twitter

The tens of millions of rand spent fixing Joburg’s iconic double-decker M1 highway appears to have been a waste of money, the Gauteng legislature’s roads and transport committee said.

The highway’s lower deck flooded during a thunderstorm last week, leading to an outcry on social media as motorists posted video of cars crawling along with water halfway up their sides.

The committee said it was “concerned” about the complaints, adding that it had raised the questions around the highway’s two-year, R169m refurbishment.

“This appears to have been a partial waste of public resources as the recent flooding has proven that the drainage system that was meant to be addressed with the recent rehabilitation still does not work,” the committee said.

The refurbishment, which saw the highway closed to traffic from 2018, included an upgrade of the existing storm water drainage system.

That particular section of the highway — where the lower deck of the bridge rises to rejoin the upper deck — has long been prone to flooding.

In 2016, the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) spent R82m in an attempt to fix the issue.

Vehicles crawl through the flooded section after a recent downpour.
Vehicles crawl through the flooded section after a recent downpour.
Image: SUPPLIED

As the Highveld rainy season approaches, the committee noted that the double-decker bridge was a vital artery for motorists.

“We will get the Joburg Road Agency [JRA] to account for the unsatisfactory results that were meant to be addressed in the project scope,” said committee chairperson Dumisani Dakile.

The committee had called a meeting with the city at which it hoped to review the project expenditure. It did not rule out the possibility of calling for a probe into the matter.

The drainage system relies on downpipes that direct the water off the bridge and into the Newtown precinct.

Old metal pipes were replaced with PVC pipes and extra drainage points were added during the refurbishment.

The JRA apologised to the city’s road users. Investigations into the flooding are under way while maintenance of the storm water infrastructure has been ramped up.

According to media reports, the pipes were clogged with litter thrown from vehicles and had not been unblocked by maintenance teams.

The agency has since placed the head of its regional operation department on temporary suspension while it investigates the matter, but has not provided further details.

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