Civil Designer Showcase

Small Road Makes Big Difference To West Coast Community

Most will be forgiven for not knowing exactly where Wittewater is on the West Coast and indeed up until now it has been a hard place to get to - linked only by a small gravel road from the R29 between Piketberg and Velddrif. And while, by all accounts there is not really much going on in this hamlet that consists of about 100 houses, the historic Moravian mission church and attendant historic houses, a school and a clinic - the small community recently came alive with activity as a project to upgrade their access road got underway.

In order to achieve poverty alleviation by providing easier access for the community as well as job opportunities during construction, the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape - Department of Transport and Public Works and the West Coast District Municipality with the national Department of Transport providing partial funding, the Community Access Road Project to upgrade the road to Wittewater was undertaken.

This new road to the relatively remote community is likely to make a huge difference to the people of Wittewater. Not only does it make accessing the town by road easier, but it also solves a stormwater problem that has plagued the community until now. Construction of the new road drainage facilities provided opportunities for skills development within the community as well. In addition the new road had to be designed to meet the stringent aesthetic standards of the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA).

With most of the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works roads being designed by consulting engineers, Gideon Hahn of the Provincial Administration the Western Cape considers himself lucky to have been able to work on this unique project. "The thing that makes it odd is that the road is divided into two sections; a rural section of 700 m and an urban section of 300 m," he says explaining that SAHRA laid down strict specifications for the actual "look" for the urban sections of the road. "They would not allow a black tarred road in town so we gave them a brown tarred road." For the kerb and the concrete side drain SAHRA prescribed that it must not be the normal grey concrete kerb and side drain but exposed stone from the local area.

Most will be forgiven for not knowing exactly where Wittewater is on the West Coast and indeed up until now it has been a hard place to get to - linked only by a small gravel road from the R29 between Piketberg and Velddrif.

And while, by all accounts there is not really much going on in this hamlet that consists of about 100 houses, the historic Moravian mission church and attendant historic houses, a school and a clinic - the small community recently came alive with activity as a project to upgrade their access road got underway.

According to Gideon it was the visits from these tour buses as well as the daily local school buses that presented him with his next design challenge. Faced with the situation in the town where the road splits into two sections - one section where the road just ended leaving no space for the buses to execute their turning movements - meant that he needed to somehow design a section of road that could accommodate these buses and their need to turn around.

"I designed a turn-around place for the buses by joining the two roads. The original road was very steep so I had to lift the road to reduce the gradient. And with the lifting of the road I was able to add a bus stop," he explained. Here the TURN module of Civil Designer was particularly useful in determining whether a 12m bus would be able to turn within the design space provided by the two very closely spaced roads.
 
South African Heritage Resource Agency stipulated the use of exposed stone from the local area


But the newly designed road not only ensures the safety of tour and school buses as well as other vehicles and their passengers; it also has another significant design spin-off for the community who until now have been plagued by stormwater problems. "There are no existing underground stormwater facilities and before we upgraded the road all the stormwater that came from the school and hills went onto the road and ran across the road to the houses on the other side," said Gideon.

This problem has now been solved with the design of the new road. "We used the crossfall of the road to accommodate the stormwater so that all the stormwater that runs onto the road gets into our concrete side drains and from there runs into a trench. We used the old road as a medium to disperse the water into the field which then ends up in the Wittewater river," he explained briefly.

In addition to the obvious design advantages provided by this R2 million project; the community stands to benefit from the skills development initiative that was incorporated into the construction of the new road. Mandated to include community involvement in the project; skills such as road building, fencing and concrete work are being passed onto the inhabitants of Wittewater.

With 28 temporary employees as well as 6 permanent employees from the community that worked on the project, the road signified more than a link to the outside world; it signified an opportunity for work as well as an opportunity to learn additional skills. Apart from the obvious road building skills that they picked up, they now also have important fencing, cementing, brick laying and stone pitching skills that can be used within their communities to upgrade living areas.

Clearly satisfied with the progress of the road-building project at Wittewater as well as its many challenges and resultant benefits for the community, Gideon looks forward to his next design project. "I love designing," he reiterates adding that his chosen job provides him with the opportunity to be out in the field surveying as well as back behind his computer tackling the design challenges that he is faced with.

For this reason he is particularly pleased that they have recently upgraded Civil Designer to incorporate the full functionality of AllyCAD as this makes his job easier. Previously having to convert files between packages, he used to lose resolution and text formatting. "Now with AllyCAD it is straight forward, faster and easier to work with," he said.


 
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