As construction of the first phase of Ngong Road nears completion, Kenya will have registered a milestone as it seeks to renew and modernise the urban road network.
The project is being implemented as part of the Nairobi Roads Network Improvement Programme whose end-game is the expansion, rehabilitation and re-carpeting of most roads within the capital city. This is critical as Nairobi is a key gateway and window into Kenya.
The three-phase project is financed by the Government of Japan though Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Phase I refers to the 2.5 kilometre stretch between Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) and Prestige Plaza. Phase II covers 3.3 kilometres linking Prestige Plaza to Dagoretti Corner, while Phase III is Dagoreti Corner-Karen Roundabout, Karen Road Section and the Langata Road Section.
Phase I, which is being built by the World Kaihatsu Kogyo Company Limited at a cost of Sh1.3 billion, involves a number of critical works. These include a four-lane dual carriageway, three intersections, provision for non-motorised transport in the form of walkways and cycle tracts on both sides of the road, a box culvert, drainage facilities and bus bays.
Ngong Road, whose re-construction was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in February last year, is unique. Its traffic gridlocks are a matter of urban legend. Besides having one of the highest concentrations of vehicular traffic in the country, a factor that has admittedly delayed ongoing works, it also connects a populous and growing catchment area with the city.
As a critical artery, it carries traffic to and from the Nairobi CBD, and passes through the rapidly growing commercial and residential districts of Upper Hill, Kilimani/Hurlingham, Woodley, Jamhuri and Lavington. Its catchment extends beyond Nairobi’s western suburbia into the periurban satellite towns of Ngong, Karen, Kawangware, Riruta Satellite, Kikuyu and Uthiru, with their fast-growing populations.
The dualling of Ngong Road and attendant works will be a boon to the residents of this wide and growing hinterland and the city at large. Needless to say, it will de-congest the CBD, reduce travel time by loosening the gridlocks, improve road safety, stimulate socio-economic development in the served areas and promote a cleaner environment by reducing air pollution from many slow-moving vehicles.
While the urban component of ongoing road works within Kenya is being implemented through the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) as the
anchor agency, the overall national road network improvement effort is the product of concerted efforts by other agencies under the leadership and guidance of the Department of Infrastructure to institutionalise an efficient, functional and sustainable road network in the country. The other agencies are the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KERRA) and Kenya National Highways Authority (KenHA).
The Nairobi Roads Network Improvement Programme is part of a conscious strategy by the Government of improving the road network in all parts of the country as a lever for catalyzing socio-economic development. Already, a number of key projects have been completed and commissioned and their impact is already being felt across the country.
Even then, given the inter-modal nature of transport as an enabler for socio-economic takeoff, the road network, can only work if it is part of an efficient, well maintained and sustainable road network. When all is said and done, a good artery road will only be as efficient as the smaller feeder roads that supply it with both human and vehicular traffic.
The building and maintenance of an efficient national road network requires concerted efforts by all the relevant authorities and cannot be left to the National Government alone.
It is important that county governments also pick up the ante by playing their part. For instance, the Nairobi County Government would greatly help the national and city socio-economic development cause by doing its bit, ensuring that the small roads under its jurisdiction, the ones that feed into major arteries like Ngong Road, are in a good, serviceable state. This is a challenge to other county governments as well to do their bit.
—The author is the Acting Director General of KURA. [email protected]