Keeping up with expressway

Keeping up with expressway

Nairobians greeted the opening in May of the Nairobi Expressway for drive test with excitement. It is understandable.

BY OUMA OJANGO

The City has been a construction site for the last two years courtesy of the works on the expressway and with the ensuing inconvenience to traffic flow that resulted in long traffic gridlocks, news about winding up the road works was bound to be greeted with smiles. 

The finer works are still going on and might take a little longer to bring the construction on the road to a complete halt. The test drive is, however, going to help with issues relating to the payment system, entry and exit points and the efficiency of the tall stations on the 27.1km road. It is the combination of those three aspects that will determine the efficiency of the road that is expected to clear access to Jomo Kenya International Airport by easing traffic particularly along the busy Mombasa Road and link Westlands to the airport.

Once the finer details of the road are finally done with, it will be open to free of charge random use, for at least three months or so to just see how it is capable of handling pressure. That way, we will also Know its full impact on traffic flow on the old road below it and how the two will complement each other to deliver desired results. Importantly, many people will get to feel and acknowledge the design of the expressway and how it infuses into the old Mombasa Road and Waiyaki Way, and this will have a huge impact on the safety of the users of both roads.

Speaking of the old road, that is where we now need to focus our attention. Mombasa Road will never be the same again. It is no longer the three-strait-lane dual road on which lovers of speed used to cruise at night and during off peaks. Today, both the old Mombasa Road and Waiyaki Way are death traps with lanes starting and ending abruptly, and starting again with some constricting without warning.

It had earlier been touted that China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the contractor of the expressway had been commissioned in the near Sh80bn budget of the expressway to also handle the reconstruction of the old roads including Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki after finishing with the expressway. Recent news by Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) that government is seeking additional Sh9bn for the reconstruction of the old roads comes as an anti-climax as it may mean delay in undertaking the same.

The old roads need reconstruction as a matter of urgency. When the real reconstruction works start on the roads, it will be realised how big a task the same is. I use Mombasa Road frequently, in fact daily, from City Cabanas to Nairobi’s Central Business District. The road is in bad shape and it may be impossible to restore all the three lanes on both sides as that would mean more demolitions of adjacent buildings and fuel stations that have already ceded enough including parking spaces. 

Further, the expressway entry and exit points have rudely disrupted the flow of traffic on the old road. Already, accidents have soared on the road especially involving infrequent users who still drive on the road like they used to before only to come face to face with an abruptly ending or constricting lane.

The newly improvised roundabout at General Motors (now Isuzu East Africa) where Enterprise Road joins Mombasa Road is a bad idea. It has occasioned constant traffic jams on both sides of Mombasa Road and should just, like before, be done away with. There are many shortcomings that frequent users of the old roads have notice and it is our hope that the reconstruction of these roads will start in earnest and will cure these hitches.

The expressway has left behind a lot of disruption especially to businesses and livelihoods. It is our hope that its intended benefits will overcome these losses. Delay in the reconstruction of the old roads along the expressway would not be cost-effective as complementarity of the expressway and the old roads would be missed. Too, the deaths and destruction to vehicles, road furniture and other property being occasioned on the old roads courtesy of the disruption by the expressway would, if the delay in the reconstruction is prolonged, diminish the intended benefits of the expressway.

That said, Kenyans will also need to work on their road habits and attitude if accidents are to be reduced on the two roads. Aside from the afore-identified shortcomings occasioned by the expressway on the old roads, most of the accidents happening today on those roads are avoidable. They are mostly courtesy of Kenyan’s attitude of entitlement where simple gestures that would forestall an accident, like giving way, seems like sacrificing one’s entire life. We are also in the habit of over-speeding even when we are traveling short distances. 

Whether the expressway was a good, or bad idea is no longer an issue. It is already here. It is now upon us to support its efficient operation in whatever little ways so that we tap its full potential.   

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