25 January, 2023

How perseverence built the path for a safer crossing

Weighing in at 18 tonnes and spanning the length of four lanes of traffic, the pedestrian bridge at Jeppe High School for Girls stands as an enduring testimony to perseverance and courage. For over 28 years, the students of Jeppe High have had to cross Roberts Avenue in Kensington to get from their classrooms to their sports fields. As a main arterial road with 4 lanes of heavy traffic that rarely slows, Roberts Avenue was a dangerous crossing for the young learners, until now. On the 6th of December 2021, the pedestrian bridge made of steel was delivered to the school and, on Saturday the 11th of December, the road was closed to traffic and the bridge was hoisted into place.

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While the outcome is a triumph, the journey to get there was long and arduous. The initial idea for a bridge was first suggested over 28 years ago. Several decades of extensive fundraising, planning and negotiating with the regulatory bodies followed. Ms Dina Goncalves, principal at that time, drove the initial planning and fundraising of the project. The bridge project was largely funded from school fees. This highlights again the crucial need for public fee-paying schools to be able to collect those fees to develop infrastructure. The past fee-paying parents of Jeppe High School for Girls deserve a worthy mention for all their financial contributions to the school over almost 30 years, which made this bridge a reality. Mr Kevin Jarvis from Jeppe High School for Boys got involved approximately 5 years ago and he and the team pushed to get final approval for the bridge from all the relevant parties – including the Gauteng Department of Education, the Johannesburg Roads Agency and the municipality.

Although it took 28 years to bring the project to fruition, once all requirements were met, the construction was relatively quick. William da Silva and Louis Pretorius of MDS Architects designed the bridge using elegant lines and lighting to create an architectural feature that adds to the aesthetic of the area. Franco Talocchino and his team from L&S Consulting Engineers, were the Structural Engineers responsible taking William’s creative ideas and delivering a design that was buildable and safe. Cadcon was the Construction and Engineering company responsible for the construction of the bridge and ensuring that it was completed and erected with as little disruption as possible. The body of the bridge was assembled off site in Lyttleton, Centurion. This was a two-week process that saw the team working 12-hour days, seven days a week. Painting the bridge took a further week. The enormous steel structure then had to be transported to its new home (with the help of Redruth Transport) and the sections were assembled on site by Gauteng Steel Erectors.

The use of steel as the medium of construction for this project offers numerous advantages. The ability to fabricate sections off-site and then transport them to their final destination ensured quick construction in the field. This was essential to guarantee minimal disruption to traffic. Further, the lower weight of the steel, as compared to concrete, means erection costs are reduced. The predictable properties of the material also aid design and construction. Aesthetically, steel is a versatile material making more innovative, beautiful designs possible, as evidenced by the final result which is elegant and pleasing.

The success of the project is highlighted by the recognition given to CADCON by the South African Institute of Steel Construction at the Inspiring SAISC Steel Awards 2022 where the bridge got a commendation in the Tubular category.

“At Macsteel, we are always proud to be part of projects that not only demonstrate the strength and versatility of our product but change lives while doing so. From start to finish, this project demonstrated the commitment of all involved to do their best for those children and give them a safer environment at school. We recognise and congratulate them all.” Mike Benfield, CEO: Macsteel.

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