The State will spend Sh9 billion in refurbishing the Mombasa Road even as it opened up the Nairobi Expressway to public use. The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure said it will in the coming days sign a contract with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) to repair sections of the old roads –Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki Way– that had been damaged during the construction of the 27.1 kilometre road.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the Sh9 billion would be investment for additional features on the old roads including a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system as well as lanes for cyclists and pedestrians.
Mr Macharia spoke today when he opened the road to the public for a three-to-four week trial period before it is officially commissioned.
“We are going to enhance the old road – all the way from Mlolongo to Westlands – to make sure that motorists who do not use the expressway also have a more dignified road,” he said. “The formal contract will be signed in a week or so but rehabilitation has started. We shall be doing drainage systems, lighting and re-carpet the old road to ensure that all of us, whether driving up there or down there, have enhanced comfort on this particular corridor.” The lower decker roads suffered damage where, for instance, some of the lanes had been dug to enable the contractor undertake works on the expressway. The cost of such repair works, Macharia said, would be borne by the contractor while the government would pay for the new features including a BRT system.
“The other expenditure will be to enhance the old road. We will be putting up a BRT system that is an addition to what was there before. We will also be doing cycling lanes, pedestrian walkways… these are additional investments, which the government will bear.”
The road has been built by CRBC under the public private partnership model. The Chinese contractor designed, financed and carried out construction works. CRBC, through its affiliate Moja Expressway, will operate the road for a period of 27 years during which it will charge toll fees to recover its investments. Users will pay between Sh120 and Sh1,800 to use the 27.1km road depending on the size of their vehicles and the distance they will cover. Saloon cars will be charged Sh360 for the whole distance between Mlolongo and James Gichuru Road in Westlands Ambulances, police and military vehicles will be exempt from paying. Boda bodas and tuk tuks will not be allowed.
The trial is expected to test the different aspects of the expressway including the automated toll stations, with the contractor expected to identify any gaps and fix them before the road is finally launched. CRBC started building the road in October 2019 and was expected to be complete in early 2023. It has been completed ahead of schedule at a cost of $600 million (Sh70 billion). Macharia said the road would play a major role in decongesting Mombasa Road and Nairobi generally. He said a past survey by the Ministry established Mombasa Road is used by upwards of 40,000 vehicles per day, making it one of the busiest in the country.
A past report by the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Authority (Namata) estimated that traffic jams in the city cost the economy some Sh100 billion a year through such wasted man hours, fuel and other such resources. “I drove from James Gichuru to JKIA turn-off in about eight minutes today. Previously, I have driven from JKIA and it took me about two hours. This road will have a big impact in terms of mobility for Kenyans. It is one of the best pieces of infrastructure in Africa… It is the longest expressway in Africa,” said Macharia Macharia said the government would increasingly seek players to partner with through PPPs to further build mega infrastructure.
Another major project that is expected to be built through a PPP model is the 237 kilometre Rironi-Mau Summit road, which has been contracted to Rift Valley Connect, a consortium of French firms Vinci Highways SAS, Meridian Infrastructure Africa Fund, and Vinci Concessions SAS. “This (Nairobi Expressway) is a good example of what PPP can do. The money that the government could have spent here has now been spent elsewhere… for instance, we have done 400 kilometres of roads in slum areas, which was possible because we did not have to spend any money on this project,” he said. “The government has heavily invested in infrastructure. There is no country in the world that developed without enhancement of infrastructure. You start with infrastructure then attract other investments.” Some 11,000 motorists have registered for either the Electronic Toll Card (ETC) or the Manual Toll Card (MTC) since the start of the exercise about a week ago. With the ETC, the operator will install an on-board unit in the vehicle that is preloaded with toll units and deducted automatically when one uses the road. The firm says this is the fastest and easiest way to pay to use the expressway. The MTC also works in a similar fashion but a motorist will have to swipe it at the toll gates. Motorists will also have the option to pay cash when exiting the expressway at the toll gates.