All is not so quiet on the western front

Messrs Robin Clanahan and Piet Skead of White River strongly oppose the construction of a western by-pass.
Messrs Robin Clanahan and Piet Skead of White River strongly oppose the construction of a western by-pass.

NELSPRUIT – The matter of the proposed new road, the P166 Western Bypass, concerns residents from Hazyview to Barberton.

The final environmental scoping report was presented in October, and comment by interested and affected parties closes on Monday, November 11.

Parties such as the White River Ratepayers Association argue that road infrastructure development is more of a need to the east of their town, while the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) proposes a western bypass.

The P166 will, in effect, start at the traffic circle at Casterbridge on the R40 (north of White River), cut through the northern parts of town, through the Heidel Valley and west past Penryn, eventually linking to the R40 and N4 above Riverside.

Sanral, servicing the community’s mobility needs

The premise on which Sanral has approached the investigation into the need and desirability for a western bypass is summarised in the draft scoping report, prepared by Royal HaskoningDHV. It states that traffic forward-planning appears to indicate that strong traffic volumes will cause both the N4 and R40 to become over saturated in the long term. An alternative north-south route is therefor required, and, according to the report, even if the R40 were to be expanded to have six lanes, this would not be sufficient to carry the expected traffic volumes.

“Such a new route would be desirable if it were to facilitate economic development and linkage between the different parts of eastern Mpumalanga,” according to the report.

If the environmental impact assessment concludes that the proposed route is not desirable, the report proposed alternative routes cutting through Phumlani, also known as the Msholozi informal settlement, near Rocky Drift.

Residents ask, “Do we really need this road?”

No, they don’t need a western bypass, says the White River Ratepayers Association. At the head of the committee opposing this development, are Messrs Robin Clanahan, a civil engineer and qualified environmental impact expert, and Piet Skead, a local businessman.

They argue that the immediate needs of the community lie in the east, not west. “We do not have a problem with traffic from Hazyview to Nelspruit,” Clanahan says, rather with ore trucks travelling from Phalaborwa to Maputo, and the need for economic development of areas east of Hazyview and White River toward Karino.

In stead of Sanral spending millions on a western bypass, they argue that capital should rather be utilised to reinstate the existing R538. This will also allow for a safer and easier tourist route from the KMIA to the region’s many game reserves.

“We have had no insight into the traffic figures the report refers to,” says Clanahan. Lowvelder also requested this data from Sanral.

In terms of investment and the unlocking of economic potential, Skead and Clanahan consider the areas in most critical need of infrastructure to be those settlements to the east of the R538. The Spatial Development Framework (SDF) for Mbombela indicates that a rapid bus transport route is desireable along the R538 connecting to Nelspruit and White River via a circular route that also includes the R40. In order for this to be feasible, a drastic road upgrade is required.

East or west? What do the figures state?

· Overall length of new construction required for P166 to the west: 17,6km

· Overall length of new construction required to reinstate the R538 to the east: 1,9km (a further 4,4km and 2,4km require reconstruction and upgrade respectively)

Sumbit your comments

The Final Draft Environmental Scoping Report is available for review at the Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV) offices in Nelspruit and Gauteng Province and at http://www.rhdhv.co.za/pages/services/environmental/current-projects.php

Also at the following public places:

• White River Library, 2 Chief Mkhiyeni Khumalo Drive

• Hazyview Library, 1428 Townsendspruit, Hazyview

• Mbombela Local Municipality Library, 45 Samora Machel Drive, Nelspruit

• Royal HaskoningDHV offices, Suite 809, The Pinnacle Building 1, Parkin Street, Nelspruit

• Royal HaskoningDHV offices, 21 Woodlands Drive, Building No 5, Woodmead, Johannesburg.

  AUTHOR
Susanna Oosthuizen
Journalist

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