N2 Toll Road Alternative Route: Premier, Provincial Transport Minister and SA Roads Agency meet Community
"It is clear that this is an issue with no easy answers. With a history that stretches back more than 30 years, and emotions that run deep in this community, the plans to re-route part of the N2 freeway through the Helderzicht/Paardevlei neighbourhood are as much about the protection of human dignity as they are about economic realities." These were the words of Western Cape Premier, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, addressing concerned community members in the Helderberg on Tuesday.
The Premier was accompanied by Western Cape Transport Minister, Tasneem Essop; SA National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) Regional Manager, Kobus van der Walt; local councillors and Members of Parliament for the area. The meeting was a return visit by the Premier and Minister Essop, following a commitment made in October last year to facilitate discussions between SANRAL and the community.
"We know that the proposed new route of the N2 is a source of serious concern," said the Premier, "We also know that it would lead to the removal of some houses and this other buildings, as well as giving rise to other challenges like pedestrian safety, noise pollution, and the physical division of the community. These are not minor issues - and our Provincial Government is determined to ensure that they are seriously considered and addressed before any developments take place."
"The section of the N2 that runs through the Helderberg has long been acknowledged as a problem - with 70km/h speed limits, multiple traffic intersections, and a winding route that regularly leads to serious traffic congestion, and threatens road safety," said Minister Essop.
The proposed rerouting of the N2 in the area has been planned since the late 1970's when the necessary land was expropriated by the then-Government. The project was halted in the early 1980's due to lack of funds, and there has been a history of community opposition to the plan. A number of alternative routes were considered by SANRAL in the late 1990's, with the eventual recommendation to proceed with the original plan. The proposed rerouting has now become part of the larger plan to investigate the creation of a N1/N2 Winelands Toll-Road.
"We value this opportunity to hold discussions with the people of Helderzicht/Paardevlei and SANRAL," said the Premier, "Irrespective of the route finally recommended by SANRAL, our Government wishes to assure the people of this community that, like the full toll-road proposal, nothing will have been finalised."
The Premier added: "There is still a long process that must occur. SANRAL must decide to advertise their intention to toll, after which every person in every affected community will have the chance to officially register any concerns. SANRAL will also be required to consult our Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town, and we too will register specific concerns. Only after all of these have been addressed will the National Minister be in a position to make the final decision about whether or not to approve the plans. If approved, invitations will be made for companies to tender for the contract - and only on the conditions specified to meet those concerns."
"It is very important therefore, that the people of Helderzicht/Paardevlei use the opportunity to raise their concerns when and if SANRAL decides to advertise their intention to toll," said the Premier. "Issues like proper pedestrian and vehicle bridges, noise barriers, appropriate landscaping, and noise-proofing the local school should be registered, because they are legitimate concerns that will need to be addressed by a successful bidder. From the side of the Provincial Government we will register the concerns that have been brought to our attention - not least of which is to ensure that the costs of the toll-road, especially in light of the extra rerouting costs, are not forced onto the road-using public through unreasonably high toll tariffs. As important as it is to create more capacity on the N2, we must avoid a system that hurts the communities through which it passes."
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