WARWICK TRIANGLE VIADUCT: HOW CIVIL ENGINEERING CAN SAVE LIVES
Does anyone else feel it's impossible to get a project completed in time and on budget? It's a hard slog - but it can be done. Tucked away in the archives of my career is a project I worked on for eThekwini Municipality Transport Authority, which finished four weeks ahead of schedule! Working on the Warwick Triangle viaduct is one of my fondest engineering experiences and the final result has been a lifesaver, literally. Read on to see how we did it.
Warwick Triangle precinct is one of Africa's busiest trading hubs - 460,000 pedestrians, 166,000 commuters, almost 40,000 vehicles and over 5,000 traders - the figures are staggering! Sadly, this hub was also a dangerous place for traffic accidents resulting in over 60 deaths each year. Enter, the 2010 viaduct…
The brief for this massive project sounded as crazy as the daily chaos and energy of Warwick Triangle. Ease traffic congestion ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and create safe pedestrian routes by building a 372 metre long flyover in just over a year!
First things, first
We knew a quick turnaround meant we’d have to mix things up on the contractual side. To fast-track the start of the project we invited contractors to tender differently by using a design and build procurement route. This set the pace and focused our minds right from day one.
The tender package had to include detailed piling design so that whoever we selected would be able to get started on site as soon as we gave the word, which turned out to be three days later! Because we valued their input, all four contractors were paid for their design despite the outcome of the tender. Over and above this, a significant portion of the budget was spent on creating jobs, providing training opportunities and appointing local labour, contractors and subcontractors.
Right in the middle of construction, we discovered a solid concrete foundation beneath one of the pile caps, which turned out to be the old Durban railway station platform - eight metres underground! Without scratching our heads for too long, and with little time to waste, we had to investigate, excavate and demolish the platform - all while carrying on with construction elsewhere on the job so as to not delay the project.
One of the biggest unforeseen challenges of the project, this obstacle didn’t impact the timeline at all. We handed over the project four weeks ahead of schedule! This is 100% down to the team effort by all parties, clear communication, change management and the flexibility built into the preferred construction sequence, which was a major consideration in awarding the contract.
Put aside the 4,800 m3 of concrete and 665 tonnes of reinforcing steel, an intersection and trading hub of this magnitude made for a very chaotic work environment at times. At the busiest period we had over 200 people on site, working alongside more than half a million daily traders, pedestrians, commuters and public transport operators.
Regular reporting on progress, weekly meetings with community representatives, clear signposting of safe access routes through the precinct, temporary hoarding and pedestrian bridges over busy roads. Everything we did was clearly communicated to help stakeholders take ownership of the project.
Building a legacy
Take a walk through Warwick Triangle precinct today and you’ll see a huge difference. Working with eThekwini Municipality Transport Authority, the western side of the bridge has been completely transformed with landscaping and the arched piers now feature giant murals by local artists. These are undoubtedly my favourite features of the project and I love seeing Durban’s creativity on display. But most importantly, we’re now confident in the reduced risk of fatalities in the area.
What a project! If nothing else, this project and the lessons I learnt illustrate perfectly what’s at the very heart of Eco Eng. Innovative and sustainable construction with long-lasting and positive social, economic and environmental impact.
Budget: R200 million
Duration: 68 weeks
Client: eThekwini Municipality Transport Authority
Project team: Royal HaskoningDHV (civil engineering and project management), Group Five (contractor)
Awards and recognition: South African Institute of Civil Engineering Technical Excellence (winner), Institute of Municipal Engineering of Southern Africa Engineering Excellence (winner)