The Nairobi Expressway construction that commences next month to address the daily traffic jam on Mombasa Road is part of a new, unique national developmental approach which demonstrates how strategic Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model can lead to great outcomes for the people, the economy and the environment.
With a landmass of 684 square kilometres, Nairobi is the 13th largest city in Africa. Still, it has 4.3 million inhabitants, the highest urban population in Kenya.
Besides, between 2013 and 2018, the number of registered vehicles rose from about 2,011,972 to 3,280,934 units according to data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics – an increase of 60 per cent over just five years.
Putting these three factors together, it’s easy to see why traffic in Nairobi has reached extreme levels such that motorists spend an average of three hours crossing from one side of town to the other.
Urban traffic congestion in the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) is a growing phenomenon and it is a big challenge to the city’s residents.
Most of the trips generated in the suburbs and beyond seem to be directed to or through Nairobi’s CBD. This basic finding lies at the heart of the traffic jam problem in Nairobi.
Over time, this has become a long-term nightmare for those going in to and out of the main service areas of the CBD of Nairobi especially during peak hours in the morning and in the evening.
Congestion on the main channels of mobility and particularly Mombasa Road as a major artery has hampered effective transportation leading to infrequent and irregular runs, unreliable schedules, poor riding comfort, uncertain arrival and long waiting periods on the road.
Basically, this undermines urban productivity and health as people spend many hours in traffic which leads to psychological and emotional stress and frustrates passengers, drivers and other roads users.
In addition, the idle running of petrol or diesel engines in the traffic congestion emits raw fumes, which are damaging to the general environment.
All these are the consequences of inadequate transport systems coupled with unethical human behaviour.
Ideally, an effective urban transport system should have the ability to deal with the high density that characterises most urban areas while moving people and goods.
What remains critical, therefore, is the kind of interventions that will provide the most efficient results, bearing in mind the lack of financial resources available to undertake big transformations.
Ray of hope
And this is where a ray of hope seems to have fallen on the Green City in the Sun, thanks to the longstanding partnership with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA).
Under the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP), they are geared up for the 27.1km Nairobi expressway project which will run from Mlolongo off Mombasa Road to James Gichuru Road in Nairobi’s Lavington area.
The completion date is set for December 2022.
The Nairobi Expressway will no doubt reinforce transport infrastructure in Nairobi and significantly reduce travel time and costs for many commuters moving from the East to the West side of Nairobi seamlessly.
Traffic, at its root, is a volume problem - there are too many cars trying to use not enough road - and therefore building new highways adds capacity to road systems.
Additionally, the bus rapid transit (BRT) system is one of the special features of the Nairobi Expressway, which will involve construction of a dedicated lane for large-capacity buses.
This will encourage people to use public means, hence less vehicles on the road.
Besides, untying the traffic knots, the Nairobi Expressway will lay the groundwork for more inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
The transport sector has long played a key role in Kenya’s development, given the country’s focus on agricultural exports and tourism.
The Nairobi Expressway therefore is poised to become a cultural touchstone, the city’s answer to the fast-paced, business-dominated lifestyle and the freewheeling carnival spirit of Nairobi.
Mr Mwaura is an infrastructure communications specialist. Mwaurapatrick@gmail.com