A major road project targeting three counties is set to change the infrastructural outlook of central Kenya.
The Nyeri-Kiandogoro-Ndunyu Njeru road will connect Nyeri and Nyandarua counties through the Aberdare Forest.
The 54km road - to be constructed by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) at a cost of Sh4.4 billion - will take four years to complete. It is expected to be complete in 2023.
The project will involve upgrading a section of the road from all earth roads to all-weather and also enhance the capacity of tarmacked sections.
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The road starts at Ihithe market in Nyeri, weaves into the Aberdare Forest National Park at Kiandogoro Gate and emerges at Mutubio gate in Kahuruko before descending to the Njabini- Olkalau road at Ndunyu Njeru.
“Currently travelling from Nyeri to Ndunyu Njeru via the Nyeri-Nyahururu Road takes three hours covering a distance of 180Km. The proposed road which is 54km will take travellers one hour and will boost tourism and agribusiness between the two counties,” KeNHA said in a report.
The route has been the largest matatu sacco - 2NK.
“While I cannot speculate about the overall impact the road will have on our sacco until it is opened, I am certain it will transform Nyeri into a 24-hour economy because the route will be open to those travelling from Nyeri and other parts of the country,” Sacco Chairman James Kahiro said.
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“Any move that minimises the distance between two towns is welcome and if we can cut the time spent on the road this is good news... hopefully it will be opened soon.”
KeNHA estimates that the road will cost Sh4.4 billion with the upgrading of the 38km stretch between Kagogoini-Kahuruko road from earth/gravel road to bitumen costing Sh3.3 billion.
The expansion of the 8.5km Nyeri-Kagogoini and 7.5km Kahuruko-Ndunyu Njeru roads will cost Sh561 million and Sh495 million respectively.
According to KeNHA, previous studies were conducted by the Government in 2008 and the study found that the project was viable and residents supported its development to bitumen standards.
However, in 2009, the National Environment Management Agency (Nema) declined to issue a licence allowing its construction.
The then Nema Director General Muasya Mwinzi, in a letter to the then Ministry of Roads Permanent Secretary Michael Kamau, said if the road was allowed to be constructed, it would have adverse effects on the Aberdare ecosystem.
The preliminary road design indicated that it would cut across 25km of the forest canopy. Nema said the project consultants failed to provide an alternative route for the proposed tarmac road.
But the current project concept proposes detailed studies and designs for the road including updating the project environmental impact assessment, social safeguards and finalisation of land acquisition for the required highway corridor expansion.
For the business community in Nyeri town the road is long overdue and welcome move to expand their market access into the Rift Valley.
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nyeri Vice Chairperson Ndegwa Mureithi said the road would improve trade between Central and Rift Valley regions.
“Kenyans have proven they can live harmoniously with nature, there should be no reason why the road which will build stronger economic ties between Nyandarua and Nyeri counties should be opposed,” he said.
KeNHA has proposed a three-year timeline, which will culminate in its completion in 2022-23 financial year. In the 2019-20 financial year, the project will consume Sh440 million - 10 per cent of the total cost.
Central Kenya Rural Roads Authority Manager Joseph Wanjohi said the project will be divided into three phases.
He said the firms that will win the tenders will have two years to complete the task.
“The project will start at Mairi-Kinyona-Ichichi-Wanjerere-Kiamuturi and end at Kairo on the border of Murang’a and Nyeri,” said Wanjohi.
According to the design seen by The Standard, the 23.2km section between Gataka-ini and Mairi and the 3.6km section between Mioro and Muthangari have been constructed.
Also included in the design is the 33.8km section linking Kiamara-Kangema-Kanyenya-ini and Tuthu, following a plea by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano.
[Additional reporting by Boniface Gikandi]