City calls on investors to complete highway

Mayor Patricia de Lille and mayco member Brett Herron with an aerial photograph of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct.

While there are still questions as to why the now infamous unfinished highway on the Foreshore was never completed in the 1970s, the City of Cape Town has invited prospective investors to complete the unfinished highway project.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said last week that any potential plan must help with traffic congestion.

However, the Green Point Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (GPRRA) has questioned whether the completion of the highway will help solve the congestion problem.

In a statement last week, Ms De Lille said the City had already committed R750 million over five years for various congestion relief projects across the city. She said the solution to the unfinished bridges must assist their range of efforts to alleviate congestion.

In the 1970s, at the time when engineers designed the freeways and embarked on the ambitious roads project, the traffic flowing into and out of the city was not nearly as heavy as is experienced today.

According to the City, the project was subsequently abandoned, mainly due to a lack of funds and the fact that the volume of traffic was too low to warrant any further investment.

Now, about 50 years later, these skeleton-like structures still stand unfinished and unused, in the midst of heavy traffic congestion.

The City of Cape Town said they would issue a document on Friday July 8, calling on prospective investors and developers, or a consortium, to provide them with a solution which will address the current congestion in this precinct.

“This document , the Prospectus for the Development of the Foreshore Freeway Precinct, will provide interested parties with all the necessary information about the City-owned land that we will make available to the private sector in return for the provision of road infrastructure and a development that will drive sustainable economic growth.

“A pivotal requirement for those wanting to bid is that their development proposal must provide housing opportunities for a diverse cross-section of income groups,” said Ms De Lille.

Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport, added: “We will duly inform our residents when we have reached this stage of the process. The public will be able to comment on the bidders’ proposals and designs and their input will be taken into consideration when the City decides on the preferred bidder for the development of the precinct.”

Luke Stevens of the GPRRA, said it was appealing to imagine that a completed freeway would eliminate painful right turn congestion at the Waterfront, Helen Suzman Boulevard and Somerset Road and allow one to glide uninterrupted into Green Point. “Yet studies show that increasing road capacity does not relieve congestion, it increases demand – after shifting the thrombosis to Green Point Circle we would within months again be parking on that elevated freeway.

“It would only be fair to balance any increased throughput on Helen Suzman Boulevard by removing lanes from Somerset Road; a corridor that desperately needs increased pedestrian space.”

However, added Mr Stevens, it is not at all a foregone conclusion that the City intends to connect the unfinished bits. “The requirement that proposals should include social housing is very welcome – it shows that the City has begun to grasp that money is not the only measure of worth when developing or disposing of state land. It also highlights the illogically skewed reservation of masses of valuable and centrally located space for cars rather than for people. We look forward to a broad and imaginative resolution.”

Hopolang Selebalo, head researcher of Ndifuna Ukwazi, welcomed the statement that mixed income housing should be part of any project. However, she warned that it must not become just another pre-election promise.

Ndifuna Ukwazi is an NGO that has been campaigning for social housing near the city-centre. “We welcome the statement about mixed-income housing and we are glad that the topic of social housing has become part of the public domain. However, we are mindful that promises are made and not kept,” said Ms Selebalo.

She said it was vital that the process was open to the public and did not take place behind closed doors.