Proposed spending on roads slashed as metro awaits progress inspection
After months of scrambling to source funding for road repairs ahead of this year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship, the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has slashed the budget for the project to a fraction of its original estimate.
Mayoral committee member for budget and treasury Retief Odendaal told the Weekend Post that the road upgrades required for the international sporting event, which would have cost the metro at least R200-million, could now be done for approximately R25-million – an eighth of the initial estimated cost.
This is because the municipality had decided to focus only on the most urgent roadworks along the 40km stretch of road that was originally slated for upgrades, as part of the metro’s agreement with Ironman at international level.
The news also comes ahead of a visit from Ironman representatives, who will arrive in the city tomorrow for a scheduled inspection of the metro’s progress in preparing for the event on September 1 and 2.
Ironman’s international spokesmen could not be reached for comment as they were in transit, but Ironman South Africa managing director Keith Bowler confirmed the planned visit yesterday, saying there would probably be two more visits before the championship.
According to Odendaal, Ironman had already assured the city that they understood the metro’s financial constraints and that the event would still be hosted in the Bay if only the most urgent roadworks were completed.
“In turn, we assured them that we would prioritise the areas where the road surface is substandard,” Odendaal said.
This includes reinforcement work of the shoulder on Marine Drive, with different areas along the rest of the route also needing urgent attention.
“Our roads and stormwater department had to do an assessment to identify the critical areas and estimated the cost would be around R25-million.”
This is a far cry from the R200-million that the metro struggled without success to source from the province – especially since Odendaal says the metro would now be able to fund the upgrades from their internal budget.
“A large part of that will be from traffic development levy contributions, which are paid to us by developers for upgrades on certain roads, while we will also use money set aside for projects that cannot be completed in the current financial year.”
The finer details would be ironed out in the adjustments budget, which will be discussed in council in Februar y.
Odendaal also said the metro had let go of its proposed plans to source R13-million from existing road upgrade projects.
This proposal was strongly opposed by various parties in previous council meetings as far back as August last year.
He estimates the necessary roadworks can be completed within two to three months.
Although the metro’s Ironman project manager, Rebecca Nyangaresi-Gatang’i, could not confirm when con-
struction was due to begin, she gave the assurance that it would not hinder athletes during the Ironman African Championship, which will be held along the same route on April 15.
“We are using this year’s Ironman African Championship as a dry run for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, which means that we cannot allow the upgrades to impede the hosting of the African Championship,” Nyangaresi-Gatang’i said.
“We are currently in the final stages of [the] municipal process to ensure we commence work on the route. We will ensure that the work is completed in good time.”
Nyangaresi-Gatang’i was confident that the metro would have plenty of progress to report when they welcomed the Ironman delegation tomorrow.
“We are proud to say that despite challenges, we managed to start with the revamping of facilities at the beachfront and the spadework for more improvements is at an advanced stage.
“Marketing for this event started with the erection of billboards, media statements, publications on social media, our website and that of municipal entities. The planning to ensure that we host a seamless event is also at an advanced stage following meetings with both internal stakeholders and municipal entities.”
Still, the metro would have to revisit the road upgrades after the September championship, Odendaal said.
“There is a massive need to upgrade the roads used for Ironman, and it could become problematic in the coming years. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels.”