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It isn’t often that a 37-year appointment with one company runs in parallel with one of the most exciting and visionary projects in a country. Brian Downie has been fortunate to have been in that position with the infrastructure developments on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

After graduating from Queen’s University Belfast in Civil Engineering, he worked in construction in the United Kingdom before joining Royal HaskoningDHV (BCP Engineers) in 1981 on the development of the M41 / R102 corridor which leads from uMhlanga through Verulam to Tongaat. It was this corridor which he was to re-visit 25 years later in a study for eThekweni Transport Authority on the development proposals for the Northern Urban Development Corridor incorporating King Shaka International Airport.

As construction on the M41 / R102 drew to a close Downie joined the team working on the uMhlanga Ridge proposals – spearheaded by the proposed regional shopping centre – to be known as Gateway.

In the intervening years before the Gateway project took off in 1998, Downie became deeply involved in the thrust by the newly elected government to provide housing. He participated in many workshops – presenting papers on cost-effective servicing of townships. As a result, he found himself elected as the Chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Joint Housing Forum. This was a body intended to coordinate the efforts of the Public and Private Sector in the setting of standards and the investigation of innovative concepts in civil engineering services.

One of the projects Downie was responsible for was the 4000-site Westrich Housing project. This was the largest housing project ever undertaken by the eThekwini Municipality until the current development of Cornubia.

As the uMhlanga Ridge project began, he was appointed Project Manager and Engineer on the external road infrastructure, incorporating National, Provincial and Municipal roads and services. The Moreland Millennium Bridge was the flagship – winning several engineering awards including the Fulton Award for Construction Techniques.

The build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup saw Downie’s most challenging and rewarding project – Warwick Triangle Viaduct – Outbound. With the injection of national funds, eThekwini had an opportunity to resolve the conflict between pedestrians and traffic through one of the busiest trading centres in Africa. Through innovation and teamwork, a 365 metre long viaduct was completed in just 44 weeks finishing four weeks ahead of the FIFA deadline.

Blackburn Footbridge is an iconic bridge on the N2 approaching Durban from the new airport. SANRAL took the initiative to implement this project to forestall potentially fatal accidents as the Blackburn community attempted to cross the increasingly busy N2 to access jobs in uMhlanga Ridge. This project was unique as it won the CESA Aon Engineering Excellence Award, the SAICE National Award for Community Based Projects and the Fulton Award – a record unlikely to be met again.

Now, as the Cornubia development begins, Downie has the privilege of seeing the massive Cornubia Interchange through to completion – finishing what was started so many years ago.

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