Thembalethu Traffic Circle, Western Cape, South Africa

Aurecon delivers the planning, design, procurement and implementation of the construction of the Thembalethu Traffic Circle

It is widely accepted that adequate transport and associated infrastructure is a key factor in terms of stimulating economic growth. Transport provides citizens with access to job opportunities within the greater economic landscape.

The George Municipality proposed the construction of a major traffic circle in Thembalethu to serve as the key enabler of the George Integrated Public Transport Network (GIPTN) programme’s soon to be constructed bus system in this area, which will provide a safe and effective means of public transport to the Thembalethu community. 

Situated on Nelson Mandela Boulevard on the southern border of the Thembalethu settlement, the goals of the project were to provide a temporary holding facility for the GIPTN buses going into or out of the Thembalethu area, as well as improved access for the delivery of municipal services departments and enable the efficient flow of construction vehicles that forms part of the formalisation programme of the largely informal Thembalethu community.

Collaborating to overcome three major project challenges

Three major challenges were encountered during the construction of the circle:

  • that of an unexpected uncontrolled landfill site discovered during the construction phase of the project which was not flagged during the geotechnical investigation conducted in the area prior to construction;
  • the need to design the circle within the existing cadastral boundaries of this area of Thembalethu, while still being large enough to accommodate heavy vehicles, especially buses; and
  • the need to accommodate construction and pedestrian traffic around the nearby school during construction. 

The municipal engineering team worked closely with the consulting engineer and the rest of the project team on all phases of the project, including finding solutions to the above challenges. The discovery of an old uncontrolled landfill on the site was overcome through the construction of a pioneer rock fill layer as a basis for the construction of the circle layerworks, which is an unusual method in terms of the construction of roads for urban areas and which saved costs on the amount of normal fill that would have been required for the circle. 

The project team cleverly designed the middle ring of the circle to be mountable by buses and heavier vehicles, thus allowing a wider turn area, in order to construct the large circle within the boundaries of Thembalethu while still being large enough to accommodate heavy vehicles.

Finally, a bypass was also built to accommodate construction traffic and the significant amount of pedestrians commuting around the nearby school and other construction areas, ensuring that the site remained safe while still being able to accommodate pedestrian and construction traffic. 

Successful completion of a transport project that will further formalise a settlement

The construction of the Thembalethu circle was completed on time and within budget in April 2014 and has successfully alleviated the traffic along the Nelson Mandela Boulevard, while effectively enabling the construction of the GIPTN programme’s bus system. Low carbon emission buses together with the incentive to utilise public transport as opposed to the private vehicle will reduce the CO2 emissions in the area, in turn having a positive environmental impact on the area. 

The traffic circle has become a key enabler of the further formalisation of the Thembalethu settlement, accommodating access for municipal service departments and construction traffic that services not only the GIPTN bus system, but also other areas in Thembalethu.

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