Design changes delay Mombasa-Tanga highway

Transport and Infrastructure secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Transport and Infrastructure secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya has blamed the delay in starting work on a key road linking the port of Mombasa to Tanga on change in design from single to dual carriage along a section of the transnational highway.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), the principal financier of the 445-kilometre project, said last week Nairobi was slow in completing preliminary studies such as road designs to pave the way for construction.

The road running from Malindi to Bagamoyo — formerly a key trading port in north-eastern Tanzania during colonial times – will cost an estimated $751.3 million (Sh75.93 billion).

AfDB will fund about 70 per cent of the project, with the two countries covering 30 per cent of the total cost in their respective territories.

Work on the mega project that is expected to take 36 months has been delayed since 2016.

It was expected to start this year, but may be delayed further to next year.

The connection of Mombasa to Tanga – Tanzania’s second largest port – is expected to unlock trade, tourism and shipping opportunities between the two countries, which have over the years had on-and-off trade disputes.

Transport and Infrastructure secretary James Macharia said the new designs will ensure the stretch from Mtwapa to Nyali in Mombasa, including the Mtwapa Bridge, is expanded into a dual and not a single carriage as in the previous designs.

“We had to change the designs to make sure we do not have a bottleneck at Nyali-Mtwapa area because the traffic there is a very big problem,” Mr Macharia said in a telephone interview.

“We decided that at that section, we should do the dualling. Designs for that bridge can be complex and need time to ensure it is done properly.”

Kenya started the tendering process for contractors to do feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments last month, trailing Tanzania which has done these phases.

“Tanzania is moving faster than Kenya, but since it is a multinational project, the two countries have to come together,” Gabriel Negatu, the AfDB director-general for business development and delivery in East Africa, said on March 28 (last Wednesday).

“Once the detailed designs are done, then we will proceed either this year or next year.”

Mr Macharia said the studies will be completed by August.

The Kenyan section of the transnational highway starts in Malindi through Mombasa on to Lunga Lunga border with Tanzania, a distance of 250 kilometres that largely involves rehabilitation of the existing road.

It will then cross into Tanzania through the Tanga port and stretch 175km southwards to Bagamoyo, a world heritage town.

This will be the third transnational road project by the two countries. Previous projects are the Arusha-Namanga-Athi River road at a cost of $260.4 million (Sh26.32 billion) and the 230km Arusha-Holili and Taveta-Voi road.