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Upgrading of the N2 between Grahamstown and the Fish River Pass

Construction of Phase 1 of the upgrading of the N2 Section 13 between Grahamstown and the Fish River Pass is nearing completion and Phase 2 commenced in May 2017. The South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) has awarded WBHO Construction the second phase and Bosch Projects, as a joint venture partner, continues to provide consulting engineering services.

The first phase of the 3-phase project from 62km to 68km, valued at R380m, is nearing completion. For this section, approximately 900 000m3 of earthworks were undertaken, including the stockpiling of blasted rock for future phases. Other major components of the works included 300 000m3 of layerworks, 13km of subsoil drains, 2km of concrete pipe culverts, 100 headwalls and grid inlets, and 240 000m2 of 19mm Cape seal surfacing.

An important component of the project was the development of the local community and emerging subcontractors.

Local emerging subcontractors were employed on the main contract and completed approximately 4 000m2 of stone pitching and 13km (3 700m3) of concrete side drain.

The upgrading of the Pikoli Bypass was included in the contract as a labour-intensive community development project. The bypass was a gravel road on the Peddie side of the Fish River that starts at the Fish River Bridge and ends at the top of the Fish River Pass. The new surface road, to a safer and improved alignment, will be used as a bypass during the Phase 3 construction contract when the existing Fish River Pass is closed for upgrading. The road traverses approximately 2.7km of steep, rocky terrain, which necessitated substantial blasting to achieve the required design levels.

The value of this section of work was R26m and 43 people from the local Pikoli community were employed and trained to undertake the work, which included 2.5km of subsoil drains, 400m of concrete pipe culverts, 40 outlet structures, 2km of concrete side drains, 2.5km of concrete kerbing and 2 900m3 of waterbound macadam base.

In order to provide further employment and development of local emerging subcontractors, a 3m wide non-motorised transport (NMT) path was designed to run adjacent to the N2, starting at the N2/R67 intersection for a length of 5.2km, and following the natural gradient of the existing surface. Fifteen local emerging subcontractors were appointed through a formal tender process to undertake this work. They were provided with NQF Level 2 training Road Upgrade – Cross over from existing alignment to temporary deviation 09 Upgrading of the N2 between Grahamstown and the Fish River Pass Fish River Bridge Widening – Beam launching prior to starting the work and with on-site mentoring over the full duration of the work, which took approximately 6 months to complete. The value of this section of the work was almost R15m.

Due to the high likelihood of fossils being found during excavation, a condition of the environmental authorisation was that paleontological monitoring must be undertaken during the excavations at the primary material source, a cutting at 77km. This was done under the supervision of Dr. Rob Gess, a renowned palaeontologist from the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. During the blasting and excavation at this cutting, a number of new invertebrates, as well as excellently preserved plant fossils of the Devonian era were discovered. These were significant as many of the species found had not yet been documented by palaeontologists.

SANRAL were instrumental in ensuring that the fossils were identified and properly recorded, making funding available for the involvement of Dr. Gess and facilitating transport and storage of material to be studied. SANRAL have instructed the construction of a rest area at the fossil find, where travelling public may stop at the face of the cutting and get a sense of the geology and paleaontology of the area. Educational displays will be available at the site explaining the find and the significance thereof.

The widening of the Fish River Bridge was advertised as a separate contract and was also awarded to WBHO Construction. The contract commenced in March 2016 and includes the replacement of the existing bridge bearings, construction of 9 new bridge beams, each approximately 23m long, widening of the existing bridge deck by 1.6m and construction of new parapets. This contract is still in progress with the main deck beams having been placed and construction of the cantilever decks and the approach slabs now in progress. These works are due to be completed in July 2017.

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