Nairobi motorists will have an easier ride through the city’s main road in two month’s-time when the planned removal of five roundabouts is expected to be complete.
City Hall on Monday made public a grand plan to replace the roundabouts on the city’s Mombasa Road and Uhuru Highway with signalised intersections in the next two months, aiming to decongest the road that connects the coastal city of Mombasa and western Kenya.
The roundabouts targeted for elimination are on University Way, Kenyatta and Haile Selassie avenues, and Bunyala and Lusaka road intersections with Uhuru Highway.
“These are the sections of our road network where 70 per cent of traffic builds up during rush hours thereby hindering smooth flow along the busy stretch,” said governor Evans Kidero when he announced the Sh400 million plan that will also bar motorists from making right turns at certain intersections to avoid impeding the general flow of traffic.
Dr Kidero said removal of the roundabouts would improve traffic flow by about 30-40 per cent.
The signalised system is expected to see traffic flow in multiple directions and will rely entirely on traffic lights as opposed to the current setup where traffic police officers direct motorists.
Transport secretary Michael Kamau, whose ministry is collaborating with City Hall on the project, said works on the roundabouts should be completed by the time schools close for April holidays.
“The biggest problem we have is the services because we don’t know how many sewerage pipes are there, but we are hoping we can do it within one month and install the signals,” he said.
Mr Kamau said modelling of traffic movements was underway to generate the signalling system.
“An intelligent transport system with a centrally controlled traffic management centre will be installed to manage traffic,” he added.
Traffic police officers will man the control rooms to monitor offences and alert officers on the ground.
In 2012, a near similar system complete with traffic lights and cameras was procured at a cost of Sh400 million but has failed to take off.
The removal of the roundabouts is expected to be a quick fix improvement of the flow of vehicles along the main road as authorities develop long-term solutions.
Under the new traffic management system, right turns will not be allowed on the intersections to avoid possible blockage of the general flow of vehicles.
The affected points include The Mall intersection in Westlands where motorists from the city and Rhapta Road will no longer be allowed to turn into Westlands. They will instead proceed to a U-turn at Brookside Drive then make their way back to Westlands.
Equally, those from Westlands driving into Rhapta Road or Kangemi will not be allowed to turn at the intersection but will drive on to the U-turn near Consolata School.
Motorists from Industrial Area using Lusaka Road to the city centre will not be allowed to take a turn at the Nyayo Stadium intersection but will instead drive in the opposite direction and take their turn at the South C bridge.
Exiting the road at Chiromo to Riverside Drive will also cease because motorists will be required to proceed to Westlands Roundabout and exit using Rhapta Road towards Kileleshwa.
Similar restrictions are planned at the Bunyala roundabout and the Old Nation (Khoja) roundabout.
Nairobi’s traffic congestion has intensified in recent months despite massive investment in roads development that however remains outpaced by the rapid growth in vehicle population.
City Hall estimates that there are half a million vehicles in the capital and that about 7,000 new vehicles are added to its roads every month.
“Nairobi loses Sh85 billion per year due to traffic jams not to mention the long time it takes to move around the city, which is discouraging investment in the city,” Dr Kidero said.
He said City Hall has also suspended registration of new matatus in Nairobi pending a demand analysis of all routes.
“What we want to do is to balance to ensure that the vehicles are used to capacity,” he said.
Consultation with the matatu industry stakeholders is also underway to review PSV termini and bus stops, he said, adding that the aim is to redesign routes and prevent matatus from terminating in the CBD.
The proposal which has been previously floated would see high capacity buses operating on dedicated bus lines pick passengers from termini in the outskirts of the city and transport them to the city centre.
But Matatu Owners Association (MOA) chairman Simon Kimutai insisted that the solution lies in restricting the number of private vehicles entering the CBD.
“Let the owners of these vehicles park them at the City Cabanas so that we can take them to the city centre,” he said.
Benedict Ongwae, a matatu owner, suggested that the parking fee be increased to Sh1,000 in the city centre to reduce the number of vehicles entering the CBD.
Mr Kamau said that the quick fix changes at the roundabouts will be followed by medium and long term improvements that will offer greater mobility.
Improvements to 21 roundabouts and construction of acceleration and deceleration lanes have started while works on multiple missing links are underway along Lang’ata Road-Bomas, First Avenue Eastleigh, Upper Hill and Outer Ring among others.
“Construction of the Southern bypass is on-going and should be completed soon. This will provide an important alternative to west-bound traffic that does not need to cross the CBD,” Mr Kamau said.
In the long-term, he added, the solution lies in the development of a mass rapid transit system. Nairobi has experienced increasing traffic congestion in the past month believed to be associated with the drop in fuel prices.
Roundabouts also contribute to major traffic congestion with only a handful of arteries like Thika Road having interchanges to ensure a free flow.
The city expects to host more international conferences in the wake of terror attacks that have seen most visitors avoid travelling to the coastal city of Mombasa for such events.