President Uhuru Kenyatta has expressed excitement over the near completion of the Nairobi Expressway, noting that he could not wait to drive on the road once it's done.
While presiding over laying of the last girders of Kenya's first toll road Thursday, he also praised contractors for their speedy work that began about a year ago.
"I will be very proud to drive all the way from Machakos to Rironi...the road will reduce the gridlock that people have experienced and which added to the cost of doing business in the country," he said.
"I am confident that with the kind of speed they are moving at, the indicated date of March for completion of this road is bound to be met," he added.
He also thanked China for supporting construction of the Nairobi Expressway, as well as other major infrastructure projects in Kenya and the region.
"A lot of people have told us that our relationship with China is not beneficial. To them we say come, let them see a project like this. Let them see the project we have in Lamu; let them see the one we have to reduce the cost of petroleum in Kilindini and the various projects we have done to ease the life of Kenyans...We are grateful to China and the Chinese people."
China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the parent firm of China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), is funding the highway, with the project’s contract value pegged at $668 million (Sh72.8 billion).
Christened by some as a "road for the rich", the project is one of key infrastructure developments undertaken during his term in office. It links the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Westlands area. It links to the new Kangemi-Rironi four-lane dual carriageway and the new Western Bypass dual carriageway running from Wangige to Ruaka.
It is funded via a public-private partnership.
Construction of the road started in late 2020 and has come at a cost for businesses and residents on Mombasa Road, with motorists enduring heavy traffic snarl-ups.
On completion, the road will stretch 27km across Nairobi, and it is meant to ease traffic flows in and out of the city centre.
The construction is funded by CRBC. Moja Expressway, its subsidiary, will operate the road for 27 years to recoup the money through toll fees.
Kenyans are expected to pay between Sh100 and Sh1,550 in toll charges, depending on the size of the vehicle and the distance covered. The charges will be dollar-based to cushion the Chinese operator from exchange rate losses.
Additional reporting by Hilary Kimuyu