SMEC South Africa’s Roads and Highways team have been awarded a major contract from South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) for the upgrade of a portion of the National Route R521 – a heavily trafficked road in Polokwane which in some parts carries up to 23 000 vehicles per day. North of Polokwane, the road quietens down as it makes its way through the beautiful Limpopo Bushveld on the way to Alldays and Mapungubwe.

The upgrade of 29.9km of road running from Polokwane to Strydomsloop includes adding wide surfaced shoulders, several intersection upgrades, passing lanes to improve capacity and safety, and an access management plan. It is anticipated that major rehabilitation of four bridges and the addition of Non-Motorised Transport walkways in Polokwane’s Central Business District will form part of the upgrade. Construction is expected to start mid-2024 and will take an estimated 24 months to complete.

The R521 is the only route for many Limpopo residents to get access to employment opportunities in Polokwane and the route also functions as a gateway to the unique bushveld biosphere in northern Limpopo. Improving the condition of this road will not only benefit local residents but also the tourism industry and cross-border traffic headed for Botswana.

Speaking on value-add Warren McLachlan, Professional Engineer, Roads and Highways, says that on previous projects, SMEC developed innovative strategies for optimising the implementation of passing lanes on two-lane highways to get the most congestion-relieving benefit out of the same total area of pavement. “These strategies and lessons learned on previous projects will be applied to this appointment to maximise the public’s benefit from this upgrade.”

SMEC South Africa’s involvement in this route dates back to the 1980s when it was involved in the implementation and maintenance of routes under the jurisdiction of the old Transvaal Provincial Administration’s Roads Branch.