The billions spent unlocking Nairobi traffic

Outering Road is one of the recently completed projects aimed at easing movement in Nairobi. file photo | nmg

What you need to know:

  • Bid to ease traffic has seen Thika highway expansion, building of bypasses.

Kenya has been spending massive resources in the last couple of years in a bid to contain the notorious traffic snarl-ups that have now become synonymous with Nairobi City.

Big road and rail expansion projects have been rolled out as the country seeks a solution to heavy traffic that sometimes threatens to bring the capital to a standstill.

Despite these concerted efforts by the State, city dwellers still remain stuck in the traffic, especially in the rush hours and during heavy rains.

The residents are however banking on the completion of the ongoing series of projects to enable them move in and out of Nairobi easily, in addition to making the city a more attractive destination for investments.

In the last decade, over Sh100 billion has been pumped in the expansion of Thika Superhighway, Southern Bypass, and Outering Road. Billions of shillings will also be spent on the planned Western Bypass.

These roads were meant to reduce the number of vehicles that use Central Business District (CBD) to their final destination. For instance, vehicles coming from Mombasa Road heading to Westlands are supposed to use the Southern Bypass instead of going through the CBD.

When Thika Road was expanded, many thought that the constant vehicles pile-up would be largely addressed with easier in-and-out movement of traffic from the CBD.

While traffic has reduced somewhat, the problem has not been entirely dealt with as the superhighway many times crawls with slow moving traffic.

Construction of the Sh14 billion Outering Road has also been touted to ease congestion on the populous eastlands. The 13km road stretches from the Ruaraka/Thika Road Junction to Taj Mall in Embakasi.

The project, which is now open to motorists, comprises two lanes in each direction, service roads, 10 footbridges under construction at a cost of Sh880 million, non-motorised transport facilities and six interchanges.

Calculation by the county government had estimated that it takes between two to three hours to travel the 13km stretch and that the expansion of the motorway was expected to substantially cut the time to 10 minutes on completion.

An estimated 45 per cent of Nairobi road users ply the Outer Ring Road, and it is believed that half a million people cross the road on foot.

The Sh17.2 billion Southern Bypass which was opened to motorists last July in another effort to reduce congestion within the city is yet to yield enough fruits as vehicles, particularly trailers, headed to other destinations than Nairobi, have been avoiding the road, making their way through the city centre.

The Southern Bypass is a class-A international trunk road which is approximately 28.6km long — 12km slip road and 16.5km service road.

The main road starts from the junction of Mombasa Road and links up with the Kabete/Limuru Road at Kikuyu town. It crosses the Nairobi National Park westward then goes through Lang’ata and Ngong roads, Motoine River, Dagoreti and Thogoto roads, then passes over Ondiri River, and the railway line towards Kikuyu town.

Effort to decongest the western parts of Nairobi all the way to Ngong town from the city centre through Ngong Road is also ongoing.

The Ngong Road, which is notorious for traffic snarl-ups, has been under expansion in three phases. Phase one runs from the Kenya National Library to Ring Road junction and is now complete and ready for use.

Phase two of the project, which cost Sh17.2 billion, runs from Prestige Plaza to Dagoreti corner. Phase three is set to cost Sh2 billion.

The scope of work on Ngong Road includes a 6.5m wide, two-lane carriageways as well as two roundabouts, one at Karen/Ngong Road section and another one at the Karen/ Langata road junction.

In February, Transport and Infrastructure secretary James Macharia, told the Business Daily that his ministry had signed a commercial agreement with Sinohydro Limited, a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction firm paving the way for financing plans for the 31-km Northern Bypass, which stretches from Ruaka trading centre along Limuru Road to Ruiru.

The multi-billion shillings road is one of the government’s major infrastructure projects aimed at making the country a regional investment hub.

“We have entered into a commercial agreement with Sinohydro as part of a wider plan for the dualling of the northern bypass,” said Mr Macharia in a telephone interview then.

On Monday, Kenya Railways also started operating a commuter train from the CBD to Kahawa in a move aimed at easing congestion at bus stations along major roads leading in and out of Nairobi’s CBD. The train which charges Sh40 on both directions will leave Kahawa at 9am to arrive in the city centre at 10.20 am.

Those leaving Nairobi for Kahawa will catch the train at 7.40 am to arrive at their destination at 8.40 am.

Other efforts to keep Nairobi moving include the planned introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS).

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