At Royal HaskoningDHV we were involved in a unique infrastructure project that pushed the boundaries of ingenuity. This was a prime example of facilitating strong community collaboration and engagement to create a project that has advanced civil engineering in South Africa.

This award-winning project is Main Road P577, now called the Dumisane Makhaye Freeway, and was developed as a result of the vision of the Provincial Department of Transport to provide critical access for the communities of KwaMashu, Inanda and Ntuzuma to jobs and economic opportunities in the New Germany and Pinetown areas of Durban.

The project has had a profound positive impact on an area where the government is committed to alleviating the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Right from the very start of the project we planned and delivered financial savings for the client, whilst creating an accessible route for the community. For example, we saw an opportunity to design the road to be more direct, 1.4 km shorter and on a flatter gradient. The end result was a significant cost-benefit for the client.

Preserving the natural environment

The project proved to be challenging given the need to preserve the natural environment of the KwaDabeka tributary to the uMngeni River. The new road was literally caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, respecting the integrity of the stream by hugging the cliff, and on the other holding back a shattered rock face, with almost metre wide cracks in places, which was constantly threatening to fall into the road.

The intricacy of the original design required expert engineering judgement, by integrating the geometric requirements of a 4-lane arterial road into the complex and challenging terrain. It was a project that simply wouldn’t have been possible without the digital innovations of the last decade.

The decision, during the course of construction, to add the first dedicated Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lanes in Durban – increasing the project to a 6-lane arterial, placed immense pressure on the design team.

Throughout the project, special care was given to safeguard the environment. From the relocation of indigenous trees to the recording and reinstatement of the riverine environment, the team undertook numerous audits to ensure the integrity of the ecosystem and at the same time, preserve the natural beauty of the road setting.

Access to employment and economic opportunities

One of the most innovative aspects of the project was the way in which its very creation was an opportunity to involve and support the local community through education and entrepreneurship.

The length of the project (14 years from start to finish) meant that a training centre could be established which provided construction related skills training to the local labour force who were then in a position to be employed by the contractors engaged in the construction of the project. They were also taught entrepreneurial skills so they could go into business themselves.

A total of 637 local community members were employed as labour and a further 10 subcontractors sourced locally during the project. A number of those workers have continued their construction work, while others have established their own businesses.

The successful completion of the project created a win-win-win situation with the economic boost of providing better access to jobs, our engineers facing a huge challenge which they were able to overcome and finally the ability to provide long-term skills and education to the local community.