Johannesburg Ring Road

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The Johannesburg Ring Road.

The Johannesburg Ring Road is Africa's most famous beltway. It is made up of a subset of the freeways that circle the city of Johannesburg, South Africa and services the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area. Construction on the Ring Road began in the late 1960s. Sections of the Eastern Bypass first opened in 1971 while the last section of the Southern Bypass opened in 1986.

The Ring Road had two major aims when it was built: first, to allow traffic not destined for Johannesburg to bypass the city along a number of high-speed freeways in quick and easy fashion; and second, to allow for the mobility of the South African Army to defend the then apartheid state from hostile neighbours, or to quell violence in Black townships during a state of emergency. Over the years, however, as Johannesburg has grown, the Ring Road has now become frequently used by local residents for commuting between home and work.

The road is composed of three freeways that converge on the city, and form an 80-kilometre (50 mi) loop around it: the N3 Eastern Bypass, which links Johannesburg with Durban; the N1 Western Bypass, which links Johannesburg with Pretoria and Cape Town; and the N12 Southern Bypass, which links Johannesburg with Witbank, Klerksdorp and Kimberley. The N3 was built exclusively with asphalt, while the N12 and N1 sections were made with concrete, hence the nickname given to the N1 Western Bypass: "The Concrete Highway." In spite being up to 12 lanes wide in some areas (six lanes in either direction), the Johannesburg Ring Road is frequently clogged with traffic. The Gillooly's Interchange, built on an old farm and the point at which the N3 Eastern Bypass and the R24 Airport Freeway intersect, is purported to be the busiest interchange in the Southern Hemisphere. The N12 Southern Bypass, which cuts a concrete swath through the rocky hills of southern Johannesburg, is apparently very reminiscent of the freeways of Los Angeles, and together with Johannesburg's sunshine, renders a real Southern California feel to that part of the city.