No bumps, no junctions: How the Nairobi Expressway saves you time

Motorists enjoy the Nairobi Expressway along Mombasa road on May 20, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

No roundabouts. No junctions. No bumps.

Just a smooth cruise from one end of the city to another in 15 or so minutes.

This is one of the reasons why the 27.1 Kilometres stretch of the Nairobi Expressway is being preferred by about 3,300 motorists daily.

Just a week after the expressway was opened to the public, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia revealed the number of vehicles that used the road hit 23,600.

“People were eager to have this expressway open. The reaction was immediate and the traffic system will get better in Nairobi,” he told the media. “Of course, weekend numbers go down. Saturday was 18,000 and Sundays was about 15,000.”

Before the expressway was built, Macharia said on average 40,000 vehicles passed Mombasa Road daily.

Now with the road in place, and yet to be launched officially by President Uhuru Kenyatta, already half of the traffic that cramped Mombasa Road is slowly being transferred to the upper deck hence easing the flow along that stretch to Waiyaki Way where the road fades.

The Sh72 billion road, built by China Roads and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and managed by a subsidiary of the same company, Moja Expressway, will be in charge of the one of a kind infrastructure masterpiece for 27 years before its transfer to the government.

The purpose is to allow the contractor to recoup their initial investment and profit as the project is a public-private partnership (PPP).

Its construction was completed in time. The road was expected to be ready by June.

“It was done ahead of time. This road was supposed to be completed in June. We are not in June yet and we are enjoying ourselves,” said David Pkosing, chairman of the Transport, Public Works and Housing Committee in the National Assembly.

Pkosing praised President Uhuru Kenyatta for the noble idea behind the expressway.

"Why was the President motivated to do this road? Of course, it is to contribute to the economy. The reason being, Kenyans were losing Sh50 million per day to traffic jam from JKIA to Westlands,” said Pkosing. “This road will remove that burden on the people of Kenya.”

“To give you an example, you fly from South Africa which is about three or four hours. If your office is in Westlands, before the expressway, it is a waste of time. Now Kenyans are going to use just 15 minutes,” he added.

Previously, this journey would have taken two to even three hours. Not even the traffic police situated at almost every junction and roundabout could help. At times their unorthodox method of pausing traffic for some minutes at the roundabouts to allow motorists in the opposite direction to flow would be met with nuisance hooting from angry and impatient drivers.

The 27.1-kilometre road while not being physically monitored by traffic police, it is under 24-hour surveillance of cameras.

By the time the road was being opened to the public on May 14, 2022; there were 11,000 motorists who had applied to use it either through the manual toll collection (ETC) or Electronic Toll Collection (ETC).

The ETC involves fitting a gadget to one’s car so that once they approach the entrance or exit of choice, the sensors at the toll station detect and deduct points earlier loaded through cash to allow the motorist a quick pass.

It costs Sh360 (excluding value-added tax) if you use the whole stretch from Mlolongo to Westlands at the James Gichuru junction.

The least one can pay is Sh120. For motorists who have used it, this is better compared to burning fuel while stuck in traffic for hours.

“I love the fact that it took me only 12 minutes from Museum Hill to JKIA instead of the one hour 30 minutes that I had set aside for the purpose. Incredible. I do not really care what you say about the Nairobi Expressway, I am thrilled,” wrote one Taib Ali Taib on Twitter as he shared his experience of using the road.

Away from individual motorists, public service vehicles have embraced the road with matatus plying Mombasa Road heading to JKIA, Mlolongo or Athi River opting to use it.

Citi Hoppa which ferries passengers to JKIA is now charging Sh120 for the trip. For those who do not want to use this road, then they will have to use the usual route which is charged Sh80. However, this means the matatu will go through Jogoo Road, Pipeline before navigating back to Mombasa Road to head to JKIA.

This will make you spend over an hour on the road.

Article written by Graham Kajilwa.