It has been seen as hell before. Those using it would prefer using it early in the morning, or late in the evening. But those who defy these unwritten conventions would spend an abnormally long time, in traffic. This is Thika Road,the 45-kilometre road stretch connecting the industry-rich Thika town and Nairobi.
With pressure mounting on the State to address this road’s anomalies, of traffic and numerous accidents, Kenya approached the Tunis-based African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance its modernization.
The move was aimed at providing additional capacity through construction of additional lanes, strengthening of the existing carriageway as well as the construction of the interchanges at Pangani, Muthaiga, GSU Headquarters near Ruaraka, Kasarani, Githurai as well as the Eastern bypass. Finally, the modernization proposal would cover construction supervision services as well as project audit services.
According to the Kenya National Highways Authority, the existing highway was constructed to bitumen standard in the early 1970’s and re-sealed with an overlay in the early 1990’s. Due to the increasing number of road users, the highway was thus operating beyond its capacity—carrying more than 60,000 vehicles per day.In addition, its condition has deteriorated requiring rehabilitation. Therefore to accommodate the exiting and future traffic, the highway needs substantial improvement to increase its capacity, this entails the construction of additional lanes and the removal of all at grade intersection to be replaced by interchanges.
The Government solicited the financial assistance of the Bank Group for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Nairobi-Thika highway in 2007. The road is part of the classified international trunk road-A2, which originates in downtown Nairobi and extends to Moyale at the Ethiopian border.
The road is also an important link on the Great North Trans-African Highway (Cape Town to Cairo), one of the highest priorities in the NEPAD short-term action plan. The section of highway under construction was constructed to bitumen standard in the early 1970’s.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Area is the most dynamic engine for growth and employment creation in Kenya accounting for more than 30 % of the National Gross Domestic product. However, as a result of rapid urbanization coupled with the explosive growth in motorization, the transport system have become inadequate—constraining economic growth and limiting access to job opportunities, education, and recreation.
The Nairobi-Thika Highway is one of three major corridors linking downtown Nairobi to the suburbs and satellite towns. Traffic demand on this road is almost twice the existing capacity. Accident data shows that over the past five years more than 700 accidents occurred on the Nairobi Thika road of these 227 were fatal. The upgrading of the highway, therefore, will provide adequate capacity and considerably decrease the accident rate by minimizing vehicle conflicts with traffic interchanges and by providing separate service roads for local and non-motorized traffic.
The initial planning and diagnostic studies of the inadequacy of Nairobi-Thika highway were done within the context of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Urban Transport Master Plan.The study, commissioned in 2004 by the Government of Kenya with funding from JICA was completed in 2006.
The findings highlighted the inadequate urban transportation infrastructure and urban public transportation system. The study particularly mentioned the extremely poor level of service and shortage of capacity along the Nairobi-Thika corridor with low operating speeds, long delays, accidents and high operating costs.
To address these problems, the GOK commissioned a consulting firm in 2006 to prepare the economic feasibility, environmental and social impact assessment and detailed engineering design to upgrade the Nairobi-Thika highway from a two-lane dual carriageway to a four-lane dual carriageway with full access control, and the construction of interchanges at all major traffic conflict points.
In August 2006, the Government approached the Bank to request the financing of the project. An AfDB identification mission visited Kenya in October 2006, and agreed with the Government on the scope and components of the project. The project preparation was carried out in June 2007 followed by an appraisal mission in September 2007.
In consultation with the Government and other stakeholders, the project concept was formulated using a comprehensive approach to improve transport services along the Nairobi Thika corridor and in the Nairobi central business district.
The project is jointly co-financed by the AfDB, and the Government. The appraisal report is based on the project feasibility and detailed engineering design studies, information collected by the Bank appraisal mission, and discussions held with government agencies, development partners, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Community Based Organizations in the project zone of influence.
Objectives of the Superhighway
According to AfDB, the Nairobi-Thika superhighway will have six to eight-lane divided highway with full access control between Nairobi and Thika Town built services roads along the Highway built with nine traffic interchanges built. The overall objectives of the project were to:
*Contribute to and improve the accessibility, affordability, and reliability of the transport infrastructure system to promote economic growth and socio-economic development in Kenya Contribute to regional integration in the eastern and horn of Africa regions.
*Improve road transport services along the Nairobi-Thika corridor and enhance urban mobility within the metropolitan area by reducing traffic congestion.
*Contribute to the development of a sustainable urban public transit system for the Nairobi Metropolitan Area.
*Promote private sector participation in the management, operation, and financing of road infrastructure in Kenya.
Components of the Road Project
The components of the Nairobi –Thika Superhighway is in the following sections;
*Nairobi – Thika Highway Improvement Works – Civil Works to provide additional capacity by constructing additional lanes (from four-lane to a six/eight-lane highway), construction of services roads to segregate through traffic from local traffic, and construction of traffic interchanges at six locations.
Nairobi City Arterial Connectors – Civil Works to improve three major arterial connectors linking Pangani to Uhuru Highway in Nairobi CBD, and construction of three interchanges.
*Nairobi Metropolitan Transit System (Nairobi Metro) Study – Consulting Services to provide comprehensive public transportation study for various options including Light Rail Transit System, Bus Rapid Transit System, and Enhanced Commuter Rail.
*Private Sector Participation (PSP) in the Nairobi-Thika Highway – Consulting services to provide financial and institutional analyses for management, operation and maintenance of the Nairobi-Thika Highway and transaction advisory services.
*Project technical and financial audits – external financial auditor and Independent engineering/construction auditor to provide project audit services.
Compensation and resettlement of project affected people – Provision for compensation and resettlement of project affected people.
The project is expected to close by 2012, some of the key cost elements included the initial estimated cost of the project is UA 175.10 million (net of taxes) of which UA 101.62 million (58%) will be in foreign exchange and UA 73.48 million (42%) will be in local currency. The estimated cost is based on September 2007 prices with 7.5% physical contingency and a provision for price escalation based on current and projected inflation in the construction sector in Kenya. The AfDB grant financed 85% of the Nairobi Metro and the studies while the Government financed the remaining 15%.
The project has wholly been implemented by the Roads Department of Ministry of Roads and Public Works (MORPW) except for the Nairobi Metro Study which has been implemented by the Ministry of Transport. The project was implemented over a period of 36 months including the time for concluding procurement, starting from January 2008.
Once complete the project is expected to contribute to enhanced transport services and urban mobility in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area by reducing general transport costs, improving accessibility to public transportation, employment opportunities, housing, and recreation activities.
It is also expected to promote private sector participation in the management and operation of road infrastructure in Kenya. The project will therefore have significant impacts on poverty reduction in Nairobi Metropolitan Area.