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July 22, 2013

Struth! Cape Town's bridge to nowhere

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says South Africa's Cape Town may finally see the completion of a 14km elevated freeway that was started in the 1970s to both ease inner-city traffic congestion, and to give a speedy crossing from the inland suburbs to the acclaimed beaches on the city's Atlantic coast.

The imaginative "fly-over freeway" was abandoned in the economically tough 1990s after AU$3b had been spent on building 7km from one side of the city and 5km from the other – leaving a 2km gap in the middle where they never quite met up, and with its only use since being for shooting TV commercials and the occasional movie.

Now, however, the city council and the University of Cape Town are giving 200 post-graduate engineering students the chance to see what ideas they can come up with to either finally join the two parts of the freeway, or to devise alternative uses for each half such as low-cost housing, tourist markets or even elevated parklands and gardens for city dwellers…

But as one engineer says, the structure is already so old that it's most likely reached its use-by date already, and would be unsafe for carrying high-speed traffic or the weights needed for ideas like those mooted above. And, he suggests, a better solution might be to simply pull it down – without a single vehicle having ever made a freeway run across the $3b white-elephant.

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