Daily traffic on the Nairobi Expressway has shot up by nearly 40 percent this year as more vehicles avoid the congested Mombasa Road and Waiyaki highways, shifting the traffic pain to the double decker road that has seen motorists get stuck at exit points.
Up to 70,000 vehicles are now using the 27km elevated road cutting across Mlolongo, through Mombasa Road, the upper side of Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) atop Uhuru Highway, upto Westlands to end at James Gichuru Road as motorists seek to save on time and fuel.
But as more vehicles use the road, the gridlock at exit points is increasing during rush hours with the most affected being the Museum Hill Exit during morning hours, Eastern Bypass exit during evening hours and at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) exit, where most vehicles leave the Expressway. Some motorists are using 20 minutes to cruise nearly the full length of the road only to get stuck at the exits and spend more than 30 minutes navigating into the CBD.
“Currently, daily traffic of vehicles is ranging between 65,000 and 70,000. This has come up from an average of 50,000 vehicles by February when we celebrated the milestone of 10 million users,” said Jean May, Head of Public Relations (PR) at Moja Expressway, the company that operates the Nairobi Expressway.
Ms May said trends show that Matatus are mostly using the road during peak hours that run until around 10 in the morning, while in the evening it starts around 3pm, as they escape traffic snarl-ups on the lower roads.
Matatus view it as a saving on time and fuel by escaping through the Expressway and in the evening mostly enter the road at the Haile Selassie entry and exit at the Eastern Bypass exit.
Most of these Matatus are those plying Pipeline, Utawala and other parts of Eastlands. In the morning, most of the Matatus exit the road at Museum Hill in the morning, as they head to town.
Ms May says with the growing traffic, the construction of the Haile Selassie exit which would offer the easiest entry point to town is ongoing and ease traffic at the Museum Hill exit, with an expectation that it will be completed next year.
“We are expecting that once the Haile Selassie exit is completed sometime early next year, it will ease the traffic at the Museum Hill exit since most of the vehicles that exit through that point are usually heading to town and Haile Selassie would be the perfect exit point for them. Management is fast-tracking that construction,” she said.
About 180,000 vehicles have subscribed as users on the road, with 10,000 others using cards.
Some of the vehicles have been forced to skip the Museum Hill exit some of the days when the traffic tightens and vehicles have to queue for hundreds of meters to exit, heading to the Westlands exit, while they were heading to town.
On Thursday morning, the situation wasn’t any different at the Museum Hill exit, as vehicles- mostly personal cars and lorries- formed a two-line queue that stretched more than 300 meters, with others opting to proceed and exit at the Westlands exit.
The snarl-up is leaving motorists desperate as they are forced to wait for up to half an hour queueing to exit the road since they have to pay for use of the road at the exit point. It has also left vehicles sometimes stuck at the Expressway even more than the traffic on the lower roads when vehicles are many.
This situation has created a new headache since the vehicles – facing traffic at the Expressway even as they escape the same problem on the lower roads – are forced to go back to more traffic of the vehicles coming into town through Waiyaki Way when they opt to skip the clogged exit for the one with easier traffic.