Friday, June 21, 2024

Spaghetti road to revitalize Francistown

After spending agonizing years advocating for better roads to enable free flow of traffic in the second city, the Francistown leadership seems to have won the day as government finally gave the green light to the over P1billion Tonota-Francistown highway. The long awaited dual highway is expected to ease traffic flow in and out of the city especially along the ever busy A1.

The dual road will also give the ageing city a facelift and further attract investment by facilitating easier movement of goods and services. Even though it is hailed as the gateway to the North, Francistown has over the years experienced dwindling economic prospects, a situation that was not helped by the city’s poor internal roads that led to serious traffic congestion. Roads play a vital role in any country’s economy as they facilitate movement of goods and make it easier for businesses to thrive. Traffic congestion is not only a hurdle for motorists, but a serious impediment to business and government services. It has an impact in any economy.?

Highly industrialized countries such as China put a lot of emphasis on development of roads as they play a pivotal role in transportation of manufactured goods and other services. China is one of the best performing economies in the world due to its good infrastructure especially road networks. Good roads contribute to ease of doing business in any country. Roads help connect people, reduce distance and deliver services and products to people efficiently.?When giving an update on the Tonota-Francistown highway recently, Francistown Mayor Sylvia Muzila said the project was progressing very well despite a few challenges. She revealed that the project is currently 65.9 percent complete, though it was planned to be at 69.1 percent.  The project began in October 2012 and is expected to be completed by November 8th.

Interestingly, the highway will have an interchange junction which will be the first of its kind in the country. Muzila revealed that the “Thapama Interchange Junction” will be a state of the art infrastructure that will be the first of its kind in Botswana.

“The tender has been approved and a Chinese Company called China Railways Seventh Group will construct the interchange junction at a cost of P121 million. The project will be complete in 18 months. This is indeed good news for Francistown,” she said.

?The interchange junction, also known as “spaghetti road” because of its sophisticated design, is defined as a road junction that typically uses grade separation, and one or more ramps, to permit traffic on at least one highway to pass through the junction without directly crossing any other traffic stream. It differs from a standard intersection, at which roads cross at grade. Botswana has never had this kind of roads or junctions.

In an interview with The Telegraph, District Traffic Officer (No.1 District) Alison Mbaiwa from Kutlwano Police Station said the new road will greatly ease traffic in Francistown.

“Traffic congestion in Francistown is a serious concern especially along the A1 road that cuts across the city,” he said.

He added that the new junction will help ease traffic flow and make it easier for the police to manage traffic.
“The spaghetti road is also new to us as the police. We look forward to working hand in hand with the Department of Roads Transport and Safety to help us guide motorists on how to use it. They will also help us with road signs that will be placed at the junction.”

For his part, former mayor and special nominated councilor, James Kgalajwe said the new Tonota-Francistown highway will help market the city to potential investors. Kgalajwe who is also the Board Chairperson of the Francistown Investment Forum (FIF), said such infrastructure will give potential investors a different view about Francistown. ?“It will work positively for us in our drive to transform this city into an investment hub by 2022. This will also show that Francistown is a serious competitor,” he said.?

He however said as councilors they are worried by the need to expand internal roads and improve storm drainage systems in the city.

“We hope the problems will be sorted out in our National Development Plan (NDP 4). We are very optimistic that this problem will be resolved more so that the country’s economy is improving. Shortage of funds has always been a challenge to us as the city council,” he said?The spaghetti road was also welcomed by the business community. Carlos Sebina-Managing Director of Destiny’s Car Rental- applauded the project as a dream come true for the Francistown business community. He said the road will attract more businesses and possibly open a lot of opportunities.

“There is no way that a city can develop without good roads. Businesses can also not prosper if the roads are poor. This project is definitely going to open new doors for Francistown especially the business community. I am also optimistic that this road will force our city council to stand up and refurbish our internal roads,” he said.?

Sebina said the congestion caused by the poor roads in the city has always been an impediment to performance of businesses in the city.?“A lot of our clients have been complaining that Francistown roads are terrible. I believe such a development will give them a different perspective about our city,” he said?He also said the interchange junction, being the first of its kind in Botswana, will give the city a facelift and help market Francistown as an investment destination.

The Telegraph further interviewed a number of taxi operators at the Francistown bus rank. Most of them said they were happy with the spaghetti road as it will ease congestion on the roads.

“For a taxi business time is money. The taxi business is challenging because our market is saturated. If the roads are good and open, it helps us to serve our customers better as we will do business more efficiently and ultimately make more profit,” said John Nseki, a taxi operator who operates his business in Satellite. ?A combi operator, Shadreck Zenzo who plies his trade in Gerald East also said: “We carry our customers to and from work and we hope this road will enable us to drop them off on time,” he said.

Asked if he will be able to navigate the spaghetti road, Senzo said:” The road will help enhance our driving skills.

I personally don’t have any problem with driving in this kind of junction because I always drive to Johannesburg. There is nothing to fear about this kind of junctions. For those motorists who have never encountered the spaghetti junction, I believe it will be an opportunity for them to grow as drivers.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper