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2011-07-21: Blinking traffic lights receive priority attention

THE City of Joburg will be spending more than R11-million to modernise traffic lights by installing solar-powered signals and remote monitoring systems at critical intersections.

Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) spokesperson, Thulani Makhubela, says 200 priority intersections have been identified for the first phase of a comprehensive plan to improve mobility in the City. "Faulty traffic lights and potholes are always mentioned by commuters as their biggest sources of frustration. We are busy with programmes to fix both problems," says Makhubela

The Johannesburg Roads Agency was allocated R523-million in the current budget for road maintenance and the fixing of potholes.  Executive Mayor, Clr Parks Tau, said that the quality of the City roads is an area that will receive priority attention in the coming years.

The JRA is currently responsible for about 10 000 kilometres of road and over 2 000 signalised intersections resulting in an excess of more than  30 000 globes that must be maintained on a regular basis and replaced when they go on the blink.

Seven technical teams are located across the city – covering the CBD, Soweto, Sandton, Orange Farm, Alexandra, Roodepoort, Midrand, Northcliff and Randburg – to ensure that traffic lights are working.

Makhubela says cable theft and vandalism are major causes for traffic lights that are not functioning. These cause massive traffic snarl-ups – often during peak hours – leading to huge losses in productivity.

"One malfunction at a crucial intersection can lead to a back-up with the potential to disrupt traffic patterns in large areas," he says.  "It is, thus crucial for us to maintain the network to the highest levels of efficiency."

A key element of the new programme will be to install uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units at priority intersections. Should there be power cuts or cable thefts in the area the traffic lights will continue to function and the traffic will flow normally.

Construction work – especially with the extension of the Rea Vaya network – also results in the power supply to intersections being disrupted. The 70 static UPS and 10 mobile units that will be operational will help to alleviate this problem.

Some 30 percent of traffic signals are being fitted with LED lights (light-emitting diodes) which are more expensive than the traditional globes – but much more energy efficient over the longer term and much brighter; resulting in improved visibility.  

Theft and vandalism remain the biggest concerns for the City as it moves to modernise its traffic signal system. Many of the recently-installed high-tech traffic lights have already been vandalised and thieves made off with critical components.

These lights were fitted with the latest technology to alert the agency to power disruptions or other technical problems at intersections. In extreme cases even traffic poles were stolen and sold off as scrap metal.

Makhubela says these crimes are costing the City – and ratepayers – an additional R14.5 million that could have been spent on other measures to improve traffic flows in Johannesburg.  The JRA is working closely with the JMPD to apprehend the culprits.

He called on residents and commuters to work together with the City to inform it of faulty traffic lights and to report incidents of vandalism and cable theft. "We are making progress in our campaign against these criminals – including the arrests of middle-men and scrapyard owners who receive and dispose of the stolen copper cables," says Makhubela.

Residents are urged to report faulty traffic lights by calling 011 375 5555


"Engineering, Education and Enforcement: shifting behavioural change amongst motorists and residents"

Issued by:
Dudu Lushaba
Communications Specialist
011 407 7134