Here’s why President Uhuru Kenyatta's government is taking Kenyans for a ride and the $621 million express highway won’t solve Nairobi’s notorious traffic jams

File image of President Uhuru Kenyatta
  • The 18.586-kilometre road project will start at JKIA and terminate at James Gichuru, along Waiyaki Way, in Westlands.
  • The mega project will be undertaken by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC). 
  •  The Expressway, however, doesn’t even come near to solving Kenya’s manmade crisis of traffic jams.

On October 16th, President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Westlands express highway.

The 18.586-kilometre road project will start at JKIA and terminate at James Gichuru, along Waiyaki Way, in Westlands and cost a whopping Sh62.1 billion ($621 million).

The mega project will be undertaken by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.

The four lane dual carriageway is expected to ease traffic congestion on Mombasa road and mobility in the city, according to the government. 

The recurrent traffic jams along Mombasa Road have also been blamed for causing hundreds of passengers to miss flights.

The World Bank estimates that Nairobi’s traffic jams cost the country about Sh50 million daily in lost man hours.

Everything until this point sounds straightforward and noble but that is where it ends.

Why the much-touted expressway wouldn’t solve Nairobi notorious traffic jams

The express highway will come at a cost. A huge chunk of Uhuru Park, the last remaining green space in Nairobi will be hived off to create space to the highway which will have 10 interchanges.

Majority of Kenyans holds Uhuru Park close to their heart considering its history and that its the only place left where one can go and to cool off from this punishing regime without anyone expecting them to pay anything.

Uhuru Park stands today because some Kenyans put their lives in danger and paid the ultimate price.

No woman in Kenyan history faced a strong government and paid the ultimate prize like Wangari Maathai, who fend off President Daniel Moi government which wanted to construct a 60-story Kenya Times Media Trust Complex in Uhuru Park.

Wangari opposed the move and was mercilessly globbered, harassed, humiliated and beaten to a pulp for standing in between the then government’s greed and Kenyans right to a clean, green and safe environment.

At a time when climate change is becoming deady evident and causing global concern, forcing countries to make firm commitments to protect existing green spaces and create more liveable cities, Kenya which likes to pride itself as an ‘environmentally conscious’ country cannot have and eat its own cake.

Secondly, the Expressway doesn’t even come near to solving Kenya’s manmade crisis of traffic jams. The problem of Nairobi is not that the country lacks enough roads but rather don’t know how to use the existing ones.

The government hasn’t even begun to implement the bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the City yet billions of taxpayer’s money has already been gobble up. Why rush to come up with another ‘crazy’ project when you haven’t even tried to make the first one work?

Too much emphasis has been placed on private cars as a mode of transport which is the key culprit in creating the traffic mess Nairobians have now been accustomed to.

What the government needs to do is entice Nairobians to leave their personal cars at home and use bigger public service vehicles ensuring less cars are on the road.

Even when enterprising businesses stand up to this challenge and offer handy workable solutions the same government shots them on the foot. It's like the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta wants chaos to reign so that they can justify whatever lopsided project they want in mind.

Early this month, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) barred app-run shuttles from operating in the country under the ‘guise’ of lacking permits.

The point-to-point shuttles which operate a time and distance-based billing service anchored on the same concept of the taxi-hailing apps were becoming especially popular with the Kenyan working class looking to comfort and keen to avoid the chaos associated with matatus.

With the entry of these shuttles most Nairobians saw no need of dragging their cars to the streets and went a long way in reducing traffic snarl-ups.

Thirdly, motorists will also be expected to pay toll fees while using the express highway, meaning the road will end up only being used by Kenyans of means.

Former Institute of Certified Investment and Financial Analysts (Icifa) chairman George Kihumba believes the expressway is not viable because it would only benefit the well-to-do at the expense of regular citizens.

“The first question we need to ask ourselves is, who is it being made for? Ordinary Kenyans or a select few? Because toll roads are generally very expensive,” Mr Kihumba said.

More so, why be narrow minded and create a solution targeting only a handful of people? Everyday it's only a few thousands of travellers who head to JKIA to catch up with their flight while millions of ordinary travellers are forced to bear with Mombasa road traffic jam, wouldn't it make more sense to create a solution for all? isn't that what is at the heart of democracy? Isn’t Kenya a democratic country?

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