A favourite project: the Monte Christo Road upgrade

The Monte Christo Road upgrade is set to have a significant impact on the city of Windhoek. The project officially started in August 2020 – and fortunately, design work was able to continue despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Monte Christo Road lies at the heart of the Windhoek community and forms a vital part of the city’s major road network,” explains Richard Laborn, Technical Executive: Civil and Transport at Lithon Project Consultants and lead consultant on the project. “Upgrading it from a two-lane road to a dual carriageway highway creates two distinct levels of opportunity,” he adds. “Not only will it contribute to the upliftment of the Windhoek community by providing speedy and much needed improved transport, and economic stimulus, but it will also open the door for future development to the north-west of the city.”

While the need for the upgrade was identified in 2016, no budget was available to kickstart the project. That’s where the Ongos Valley Development came into play. Located 8 km from Windhoek’s city centre, this mixed-use housing development will, upon completion, include 28 000 new homes as well as multiple schools, retailers and businesses. However, in order to connect Ongos Valley to the city’s road and transport network and thus provide access to Ongos, the Developer of this “city within a city” needed to build 4,5 km of new road that would join up with the existing Monte Christo Road. That’s when, in a first for Namibia, they decided, as private sector stakeholders, to find funding for and take ownership of the design and construction of a public road upgrade that would require approval from the municipality and government. 

We spoke to Richard recently to find out about the progress of this life-changing project, which he counts among his favourites in an engineering career that spans over 29 years.

What is the scope of the project?

The project will see the Monte Christo Road upgraded from two lanes to four between Hosea Kutako Avenue and Matshitshi Street – a distance of roughly 6,4km – with provision for additional BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lanes in the future. Lithon’s role is to undertake the designs, contract administration and supervision for all the transport engineering aspects and stormwater, street lighting and traffic lights for the upgrade. Also included is the City of Windhoek’s NMT (Non-motorised transport) plans that must be implemented on all future projects to make provision for pedestrians, cycles and handicapped people.

What makes this one of your favourite projects?

The Monte Christo Road project is hugely rewarding for two reasons. Firstly, because of what it will mean for the Windhoek community. More than a third of the city’s population of 400 000 will be directly impacted by shorter commuting times, improved mobility, and increased delivery and economic opportunities. Secondly, because of the technical complexities involved. I enjoy a good challenge and this venture has several that are stretching me beyond my years of experience. Building a highway is never easy and because we’ll be building the two new lanes first, making sure that it’s possible to rehabilitate the existing road to match the future lanes is going to be critical and also through the existing buildings and surroundings. Furthermore, construction of the road will have to take place while the existing route remains operational, Monte Christo Road is one of the arteries of Windhoek. I’m also working on BRT lanes for the first time and also the first for the City of Windhoek, so I’ve spent a significant amount of time reading articles and technical papers – especially those relating to the BRT system implemented in Cape Town. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced or are currently facing?

There are always complexities when multiple stakeholders are involved in a project. And with this project, it’s going to take great leadership to ensure its success – to get everyone around the table looking in the same direction and committed to the same outcomes.

What are the next steps? 

We’d love to see work starting in 2022. This road is critical to the expansion of Windhoek and the upliftment of its community, so the sooner we have sign-off on the design masterplan and can move forward with construction, the better. 

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