Bye Bye Thika Superhighway, Bye Bye Traffic Jam! Outer Ring Road Expansion Is in Place!

Move aside, Thika Superhighway. A new road is about to revolutionise transport in Nairobi.
For years, getting to town from Eastlands, which houses 60 per cent of the city’s dwellers and its most active workforce, has been like passing through the eye of a needle. Some 2.6 million people have been squeezing through a single carriageway on Outer Ring Road. Though designed to carry 800 vehicles per hour per lane, it instead carried 1,040 vehicles.

The hours wasted in traffic and increased cost of transport translated to Sh50 million losses in 2014.

But now the 13km road has been expanded to a dual carriageway, in what will be the first major government project to decongest Nairobi.

Residents can hardly wait for its completion in December. Traders are making a beeline for the area. Supermarkets, malls, godowns, industries and production parks are popping up.

The project is “a blessing to Nairobi residents”, according to the Kenya Urban Roads Authority. It expects more businesses to blossom in Eastlands and movement of goods to be hastened.

“It is after one year that the real transformational effects of the road can be realised,” said John Cheboi, chief corporate communications officer of Kura.

The road upgrade has been a long time coming. President Uhuru Kenyatta launched it in January 2015. Kura awarded the Sh8 billion project to Chinese contractor SinoHydro Tianjin Engineering Company.

The project completion date was revised from July 31 to December 31 “due to challenges in relocation of services, among other project constraints”, Infrastructure PS John Mosonik said in August during an inspection.

For now, it has been opened to the public but will be commissioned in the next few weeks.

DUST-INDUCED LOSSES

When the project began, businesses along the Outer Ring Road were counting losses. The construction work leaves behind a heavy cloud of dust, which has been keeping clients away.

“I have been selling women’s handbags since 2013 outside Naivas Supermarket, but immediately the tractors came, I was displaced and until now, I have not found a permanent place for my business,” said Mary Chebet, a trader along Outer Ring Road.

Cheboi said the issue of traders and hawkers is a major urban problem.

“In the project, Kura has tried to mitigate by assisting over 400 youths obtain life skills and, therefore, gain employment or open better businesses,” he said.

“This was a joint programme between Kura and African Development Bank (AfDB) at the cost of Sh33million. It targeted hawkers along Outer Ring Road.”

Cheboi said under the same programme, Kura has set aside Sh800 million for the construction of fresh produce market along Kangundo Road, which has already began and is expected to be completed in early next year.

Meanwhile, Kura is working to ensure adjacent roads and other linking roads are networked and improved to take more traffic and reduce congestion.

“As soon as the road is fully operational, a study on what is possible and what can be improved will be undertaken to ensure smooth flow of traffic. This may include disallowing side activities that may slow traffic,” Cheboi said.

MATATU MADNESS

Traffic jam has long been a crisis along Outer Ring Road. Matatus and buses have been making it worse as they made arbitrary U-turns and even created their own bus stops for passengers.

Though accidents along the road are rare, this led to traffic build-up as each PSV vehicle tried creating its own routes to avoid the traffic jam.

Traffic police have been placed at junctions where traffic tends to build up, especially during peak hours.

Traffic police have often struggled to control traffic, both PSVs and motorists, because they used the wrong lanes to reach their destinations.

Mike Wekesa, a matatu driver of the 39-route, said: “Before, we really didn’t understand the sense of using the right lanes because for us, time is money. But now, following the correct route even makes it easier for us to alight and board passengers.”

Haron Owaro, a matatu driver in the 33-Embakasi route, added: “We are eagerly waiting for the completion of the road. So far at least traffic jam has reduced, and as a driver I found the project very effective.”

Owaro said drivers had previously lost a lot of money being stuck in traffic jams because it took longer to make rounds back and forth to town.

He said the major challenge now is that between Taj Mall and Donholm area, there is no bus stop established yet.

Cheboi said four bus stops will be set up by the time the road is completed. “These may not suffice but considering the unavailability of the corridor, they will serve.”

AMENITIES AND COVERAGE

Upon completion, the road will contain 11 footbridges, loops and ramps for interchanges, service roads, grade-separated intersections, additional lengths at junctions and non-motorized traffic lanes (walkways and cycle tracks).

The road covers Mlango Kubwa, Kiamaiko, Huruma, Kariobangi, Umoja, Mukuru and Embakasi. It also provides appropriate connectivity mainly of Nairobi–Thika Highway to, among other corridors, the Eastern Bypass, Kangundo Road, Northern Bypass, Mombasa Road and the all-important Kenyan gateway, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Some of the lanes have been completed and opened for the public to use, while other lanes are almost complete.

Footbridges are yet to be put up to provide pedestrian safety.

“We have a lot of school children who come from Umoja to Buruburu estate and vice versa,” Cheboi said.

“The footbridges will be efficient for the safety of schoolchildren and also pedestrians, as we are trying to minimise the number of accidents on our roads.”

Painting and marking of the road lanes have been completed, and embankments are now being put up to completely separate the lanes.

Mirima Alube, a market vendor on Mutindwa Market, said: “At the moment, I am quite happy to see the improvement made on this road. For many years, Outer Ring Road was in a hapless condition.”

On the stretch approaching Allsops, the pedestrian footpaths are almost done, and the lanes have been opened for use.

Trader Fredrick Okoth said the reconstruction of the road has provided an apt environment for his business.

“The road was in very poor condition, and the dust was really destroying the clothes in the store, but now everything is in order. Even the customers are happy that the clothes are dust-free and they can even fit them before purchase,” Okoth said.

Okoth said that while the road was under construction, he and other traders had to vacate and give time for the construction to take place.Source:Pocket News

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