JG Afrika’s incredible depth of expertise in road engineering

JG Afrika

The firm has a long and impressive track record in transportation with a solid history in rail and road engineering. Today, JG Afrika’s team includes some of South Africa’s foremost road, traffic and transportation engineers, who continue to play their part in helping the country’s roads authorities design efficient, accessible and, importantly, safer road networks.

Road-traffic signs in KwaZulu-Natal

One such professional is seasoned engineering technologist, John Falkner, who is currently overseeing the visual audit, assessment, detailed design, procurement and construction monitoring for the provision of road-traffic signs (RTS) in KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of the The South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL).

The project entails assessing the condition of the existing RTS and replacing those that do not conform, in addition to providing new signage where required on both tolled and non-tolled sections of SANRAL’s road network in KwaZulu-Natal.

“This vast ‘site’ includes sections of the N2, N3, N11, R22, R61 and P720. The network spans well over 2000 km in both directions and traverses towns as far afield as Kokstad, Newcastle, Hluhluwe and Port Edward,” Falkner says.

He adds that the different types of roadways on the SANRAL KwaZulu-Natal roads network have made this an extremely interesting and challenging project.

The network includes freeways with multi-level interchanges, such as the N3 from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and the N2 from Isipingo to Umhlanga. The R22 between Hluhluwe and Kosi Bay Border Post is a two-lane rural roadway that serves a large community and world-class tourism resorts.

The type and quantities of signage required for these differently functioning roadways are, as might be expected, varied in the extreme.

Having completed the designs, Falkner is also looking forward to the installation of the signs as part of the next phase of the project.

As the factory where they will be manufactured might be located outside KwaZulu-Natal, delivery of the signs (which when erected are much wider than the freeways), together with their supporting poles, to the hundreds of sites across the road network will be one of the biggest logistical complexities of this project.

Road markings in the Free State

Meanwhile, experienced civil engineer, Shalen Jangali, a JG Afrika Technical Director, is overseeing the firm’s team of maintenance engineers who have been deployed on another SANRAL project in the Free State.

This project is one of two SANRAL trials in the country that are geared to improving the quality of road markings on the national road network by introducing performance-based marking contracts.

“The client is concerned that there have been too many instances where road markings have deteriorated long before their specified 15-year lifespan. Under this new system, payment is only made to the contractor once it has been ascertained that the paint complies with minimum standards. This approach is, therefore, expected to significantly improve the quality of markings on the road network,” he says.

The line length is 500 km and 850 km on the tolled and the non-tolled roads respectively.

JG Afrika is working alongside a private company, City Markings, which is also testing a water-based paint on a seven-kilometre non-performance-based section of road in Welkom.

One of the biggest advantages of this road-marking technology is its ability to provide improved glass bead retention to extend retro-reflectivity and evening visibility, while durable whiteness increases the conspicuousness of the markings during the day.

Moreover, the water-based paint is safer to work with, easier to clean and is considered a “greener” alternative to its chemical-based counterparts.

For purposes of comparison, a tried-and-tested thermoplastic paint is being applied on the performance-based sections of the project.

The project is not without its challenges, one of which is the low winter temperatures that can reach minus eight degrees Celsius in the province.

In addition to making working under these conditions difficult, the cold paint also causes the pipes of the application machines to clog and careful planning and preparation are therefore required to avoid possible delays.

A further constraint is that JG Afrika and City Markings have to coordinate their work closely with that of other road maintenance teams operating in the province.

Road Asset Register in the Western Cape

Steve du Toit, a senior associate at JG Afrika, has a wealth of experience in road-construction management.

He is overseeing the team appointed by the Western Cape Department of Transport & Public Works to collect roads inventory data for its new, sophisticated road-asset register.

The new road-asset register is the first of its kind in the country. Significantly more detailed than its predecessor, the system will provide the provincial government with an accurate measure of the value of its road assets.

Compiling the road-asset register is an extensive undertaking that covers about 4000 kilometres and includes all trunk, main, divisional and minor routes in the West Coast District Municipality.

“We started with the most complex aspect of the project, namely logging and collating the numerous visible features, such as markings, guardrails, culverts and services, along the approximately 2000 km of trunk and main roads. A short 23-km section of the R55, for example, has more than 600 visual features and a 12,5 km portion of the R40 has just under 300 road items that had to be verified,” he says.

Many digital pages, each with up to 15 lines of visible road items, have already been generated for the trunk roads component of the project.

At the same time the company’s teams had to maintain an especially high level of precision in built-up areas along the road network when collating the many different visible features, ranging from road markings and traffic signals through to overhead transmission and telephone lines.

Information is pre-recorded on a tablet and verified on site by ticking set boxes on a software program. The data are then uploaded onto the Department of Transport & Public Works’ central system and signed off by Du Toit.

Establishing the benchmark

The team is supported by Dr John Sampson, who has participated in many big traffic and transportation projects at JG Afrika.

One of the highlights of his long career has been his membership of the Pretoria, Witwatersrand and Vereeniging (PWV) Consortium of road planning and design experts.

The Consortium undertook the future planning for all provincial arterial roads and freeways in three metropolitan areas of the then Transvaal, which later became Gauteng under the new democratically elected government.

Other milestones in his long career include heading up the TTT Africa teams responsible for the transportation master plans for several new “cities” that are now coming to fruition.

These include the 600 ha Modderfontein New City (roughly equivalent in size to Sandton); Waterfall City, a vast development from Sunninghill all the way through to Tembisa; and Steyn City, in which JG Afrika became involved right from the early phases when this large urban node was only an idea mooted by Douw Steyn.

He also served on the three-man team of engineering doctors appointed via the Committee of Transport Officials (COTO) to determine policies and standards for traffic and transportation engineering in the country. The work of the team concluded with the development of six national manuals.

They include the South African Road Classification and Access Management Manual, the South African Engineering Services Contribution Manual, two volumes of the South African Traffic Impact and Site Traffic Assessment Manual, the South African Trip Data Manual and the South African Manual for Permitting Services in Road Reserves.

Sampson also developed Autal, a traffic engineering software program which is being used by many metropolitan municipalities as well as local consulting engineering firms in South Africa and Namibia. The program automatically determines the optimal traffic control at intersections and calculates traffic light sequences.

Autal took Sampson 15 years to develop and he is constantly refining the system, which currently takes into account, among other factors, pedestrians and cyclists, U-turns, heavy vehicles, busways, mini-circles, four-way and two-way stops, as well as 21 different traffic signal staging possibilities.

Before joining JG Afrika, Sampson worked in the City Engineer’s section of Johannesburg’s Traffic Engineering Department, where he assisted with the redevelopment of the South African Road Signs Manual.

The 15 books of SARTSM, often referred to as the traffic and transportation engineer’s “bible”, deal with every aspect of road signage, markings and signalling, while also incorporating Sampson’s research into warrants for traffic signals, undertaken for his doctoral thesis.

JG Afrika is proud of the part it continues to play in contributing to the rapid, safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the Southern Africa road network.