Three years, R200 mil to improve traffic signals

Herman Mashaba with Johannesburg Roads Agency chief engineer, Sbusiso Kunene during an oversight visit to traffic light cabling.

A three-year budget commitment by the City of Johannesburg to the Johannesburg Roads Agency will mean less flickering, or faulty traffic lights, reduced downtimes and shorter travel times.

This was announced at the agency’s headquarters in the Joburg CBD along with an outline of the no-join policy.

The no-join policy means that Johannesburg Roads Agency’s technicians will no longer join old cables when an electrical fault is reported at a downed traffic light, but replace it with a new one.

Herman Mashaba gets his hands dirty at a traffic light intersection in the CBD where cabling is being replaced.

The City’s mayor, Herman Mashaba said each join was an electrical weakness making the circuit vulnerable to rain, electrical surges and lightning.

“The policy launched today serves to reduce the high number of electrical faults over time for the most critical high volume intersections in the city,” he said.

This policy will begin at key intersections, eventually rolling out the policy to all the agency’s roads.

The city has 2 135 traffic-signal intersections, 16 503 signal poles, 35 509 signal heads and 900km of traffic signal cables. Faults in this network are reported to the agency and monitored by its traffic operations centre.


Herman Mashaba, the City of Johannesburg mayor, on a site visit to an intersection where traffic light cabling is being replaced instead of joined, as implied in the no-join policy the City has adopted. Photo: Chantelle Fourie.

Extending the operating hours of the centre to be manned 24-hours a day, seven days a week, is another intervention Mashaba has made.

According to the agency’s head of mobility, Darryl Thomas, the city’s roads already function on a smart traffic signal system.

Every traffic light has a built-in modem that notifies the operations centre remotely.

“This has reduced technician response times and resulted in accurate, efficient repairs and fault resolution,” he said.

But faulty cabling and joins in the system do not account for all the agency’s problems.

Theft, vandalism, accidents and power failures add to the burden of faulty traffic lights, eventually adding more minutes to a motorist’s estimated time of arrival.

Thomas explained that despite the proactive smart traffic signal project approach to reducing traffic signal downtime, accurate fault detection, proper earthing, more technicians, alternative materials and uninterrupted power supplies were key.

The managing director of the agency, Dr Sean Phillips said they were discussing with City Power and Eskom to help restore power faster to traffic signals.

The traffic signal improvement plan, including the no-joints policy, will be implemented over the next three years and cost the City over R200 million.

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Chantelle Fourie

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