World Bank deal paves way for work on Nairobi’s first elevated highway


An artistic impression of Uhuru Highway. Image/KENHA

The construction of Nairobi’s first double-decker highway linking Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Nairobi-Nakuru highway is set to begin later this year following the recent signing of a financing agreement with the World Bank.

The Sh38 billion elevated highway, meant to decongest central Nairobi, has been on the cards for nearly a decade. The first attempt collapsed after the World Bank pulled out citing the inclusion of banned figures in the list of contractors.

“We now have a new commitment from the World Bank for the Sh38 billion project and we expect to finalise discussions by December,” said Peter Mundinia, the director-general at Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) — the agency in charge of highways.

Mr Mundinia, who spoke on the sidelines of an infrastructure summit at State House, Nairobi, also indicated that the African Development Bank has expressed interest in funding the mega project.

The elevated dual carriageway is to be built in three phases beginning with the first 6.5 kilometres running from JKIA to Likoni Road and the Southern bypass interchange.

The second stretch (12 km) will connect Likoni Road to James Gichuru Road junction on Waiyaki Way in Westlands, while the last section will run from James Gichuru Road to Rironi, on Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

KeNHA yesterday said the tender for the Westlands-Rironi stretch had been awarded to China Wu Yi, paving the way for ground-breaking while designs for the first two sections are being finalised.

Motorists using the express road will pay a fee to escape the current heavy jams, especially on Mombasa Road.
“The express road will be subject to toll charges, estimated to stand at between Sh500 and Sh1,000 for convenience to those in a hurry,” said Transport secretary James Macharia.

Met with resistance

“It is a matter of choice and those who don’t want to pay will continue using the current roads,” he added.
Past attempts to introduce toll charges on public roads constructed using taxpayers’ cash like Thika Superhighway have been met with resistance and it remains to be seen how the State will overcome that resistance with the new project.

Mr Macharia said talks with World Bank are ongoing and are expected to be concluded by December.
Some of the special features of the road include a dedicated lane for well-organised, large-capacity buses under the bus rapid transit (BRT) plan that is aimed at improving public commuter service and easing congestion.

The road will come with multiple interchanges at intersections on Popo-Kapiti, Lang’ata-Lusaka, Bunyala, Rhapta and James Gichuru roads.

Parliament in 2008 approved the construction of a 77-kilometre double-decker road in Nairobi under a 30-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) deal that allows private firms to invest in a public project, operate it for an agreed period to recoup their expenses and profit before handing it over to the State.
But nearly a decade later construction works are yet to commence.

Initial attempts to build the road failed after the World Bank raised concern over the integrity of Strabag — the Austrian firm that had won the concession to build and operate the road.

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READ: China Wu Yi firms grip on Kenya roads with Sh16bn Waiyaki Way deal

The fallout followed a condition by the World Bank that it would only finance the project once Strabag complied with its social and environmental safeguards, including land acquisition and Kenyan legal provisions.

The JKIA-Rironi Road is expected to supplement another planned project known as the Nairobi Metropolitan Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) that will introduce dedicated lanes on the roads for large-capacity buses and a light commuter rail to city estates.

According to proposals to the government, the project would be implemented along nine road corridors namely; Nairobi Railway Station (NRS)-Ruiru-Thika, NRS-Juja Road-Kangundo, NRS-Jomo Kenyatta Airport-Athi River, NRS-Langata Road-Karen and NRS-Upper Hill-Ngong.

Other corridors to be covered by the project are NRS-Kabete-Kikuyu, NRS-Gigiri-Limuru and Outer Ring Road in city’s Eastlands area.

The present Nairobi Railway Station area, including the yards, has been proposed for the construction of a 24-storey central hub terminal for the MRTS, with all lines originating or terminating at this point or traversing it.

The blueprint shows that the road network will be serviced by an exclusive closed rapid bus system complete with special feeder services. The special bus routes will run alongside the normal highways except within the central business district (CBD) where it will be elevated.

Statistics by the Transport ministry show that major roads in Nairobi such as Thika Road, Outer Ring Road, Uhuru Highway, Haile Selassie Avenue, Mbagathi Way, Lang’ata Road and Waiyaki Way are used by 80,000 vehicles every day on average — which is way beyond their design capacity.

The Nairobi City commuter train currently carries about 19,000 commuters daily, which is also way below the estimated demand of 90,000 passengers.

Update: This article has been revised to correct the error in the paragraphs that indicated the elevated highway will cost Sh380 billion. The correct figure is Sh38 billion.
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