Kenyans react to Sh300billion Mombasa-Nairobi express way

Director General of KENHA Mundinia (l) , Chairman Mwongera (c) and BNT Construction and Engineering Kenya Region president for Africa Andrew Patterson (r) during contract signing for the construction of the Nairobi-Mombasa Expressway (WILLIS AWANDU)

NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenyans have expressed mixed views on the decision by the government to build a new road between Mombasa and Nairobi. The new express highway will cost about Sh300billion.

It has also emerged that instead of turning the current road into an expressway; the government made a sharp turn and decided to construct a new road alongside the existing one.

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The new road, which will be built by a US firm Bechtel, will hand Kenyans the fourth alternative to travel between the two cities besides the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), air and the current road.  

Most reactions on the project from both here at home and abroad were on the wisdom and motivation behind the project, the costs, and its importance for the Kenyan economy.

“When the Mtito Andei – Bachuma Gate section of the Nairobi – Mombasa highway was redone in 2001, it was said to be the best section of road in Africa outside of South Africa. Today, that section of road is in tatters. What happened? Lack of maintenance. We can spend billions of dollars building an expressway but without simple things like maintenance, we’ll end up back where we are in another 15 years. We don’t need the expressway,” Mr Godfrey Kimega wrote.

“The US has the best Highways (Motorways) I have ever seen. Hopefully the American firm will give us the magnificent designs and high construction levels seen in America where even road markings are not easily washed away by harsh climatic conditions (of some parts of the US),” Musa Wa Musa said.

On his part, Mr Kamau Njuguna raised concerns on the impact of the road on wildlife coming on the back of the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)

“What about proper passing points for wildlife, Elephants are starving now due to bad planning of SGR and road development. If wildlife dies tourism loses, Kenya loses and the world loses,” Mr Njuguna wrote.

Mr Evanson Churu asked what should come first between building the road and building industries that would use the road.

“What comes first? The infrastructure to transport the goods or the goods to be transported. We should also be thinking on what we shall be transporting on these structures. Else they will simply be import routes just like the rustic express,” Mr Churu wrote.

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“And similarly, why build redundancy alternatives (expressway) when we have not fully utilised the SGR and the existing Mombasa highway. Kenyans let us be pragmatic and rational in our planning,” Mr Churu added.

There are those who felt that the country has more needy roads at the moment that need more attention than sinking the billions into the express way.

“Are we really in dire need of this road? Why can’t the government use those billions to upgrade to bitumen standards the Isiolo-Garbatulla-Wajir road, or even Moyale-Mandera road, or Maralal-Loiyangalani-Maikona-Turbi_Dukana-Moyale road?”

San Thome offered that if all that money would be put to mechanize the peasant farmer for now, poverty would be a thing of the past in the country.

“Access to farm machinery, agricultural extension staff, insecticides and pesticides, fertilizer, optimised agricultural education for schools and tertiary colleges, crop storage facilities, marketing agencies regionally, and so on,” Mr Thome said.

“And then naturally there will be an improvement in healthcare among the common folk, wealth will have moved from the perception of cities and towns back to the reality of the rural areas. Wealth would cascade well for everyone, not as much from the infrastructure proposed and implemented on the Mombasa Nairobi axis,” Mr Thome noted.

Mista Timba on his part argued that there is nothing wrong with a parallel highway if it will be built using private money to be recovered using toll charges when completed.

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“Whoever wants to drive to Mombasa faster and with more comfort can use this road and pay for such conveniences. The rest of the hoi polloi can continue using the free government road. This is life,” Timba said.

His view is shared by Mr Jesse Wachira who said the model being used is what is also used in other countries such as South Africa.

“The roads are super highways, very good compared with anything in Kenya currently, but you pay for them. Between the Botswana Border and all the way to Durban (about 700kms), you will encounter over 8 toll stations and pay close to Sh4000 one way and sh8000 return. Of course there are roads to avoid the tolls but very rough and not as good. I always prefer to pay because it’s an experience to drive on these super-highways,” Mr Wachira added.

Bryan Musoko on his part wondered why the government would waste money on the project instead of building a dual carriage all the way and install median barriers to avoid oncoming traffic from overtaking dangerously and put in speed cameras with number plate recognition for use with your new plate system.

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