When former President Mwai Kibaki’s government started constructing Thika Road, the Sh32 billion that was sunk into the project astonished many.
In the years that followed, the road took the tag of the largest infrastructure project that the country had undertaken in terms of national expenditure.
The cost would translate to Sh600 million per kilometre.
Now all this is a distant memory. The Jubilee administration has built grandiose roads whose costs betray an extravagance that is yet to be eclipsed.
Several of these roads have made a billion shillings feel like loose change.
Among them is the 11 kilometre Dongo Kundu bypass in Mombasa. The road cost Sh11 billion, or about Sh1 billion per kilometre.
The second and third phases of the Dongo Kundu project, an 8.9-kilometre road section between Mwache Junction and Mteza, and a 6.9-kilometre road from Mteza and Kibundani, connecting the highway to the Likoni-Lunga Lunga road, will cost Sh30 billion.
This will translate to close to Sh2 billion per kilometre for the two phases, which have a combined length of 15.8 kilometres.
A key contributor to the high cost is two sea bridges with a length of 2.1km.
The 16.5-kilometre Western Bypass, which starts at Gitaru and ends in Ruaka, cost Sh17.3 billion, indicating each kilometre cost more than Sh1 billion.
In 2007, Members of Parliament raised an issue with the cost of Mbagathi road in Nairobi. The road was an experimental project to test the use of concrete technology.
The road cost Sh90 million per kilometre. That, according to the MPs then, was exorbitant. Ironically, the road has turned out to be the most durable in the city.
The Northern and Eastern bypasses that are earmarked for dualling will cost Sh40 billion. The two roads have a combined length of 51.6 kilometres. The dualling will cost Sh775 million per kilometre.
While this falls below the Sh1 billion per kilometre mark, the projects are unique in that they are relatively new, with much of the road, including the reserves, being intact.
The land acquisition expense will not arise in the case of the two roads. The roads had initially cost Sh9.27 billion.
The expressway between Jomo Kenyatta Intentional Airport and James Gichuru Road in Westlands will cost Sh62 billion.
The Mombasa-Nairobi Expressway, controversially awarded to American firm Bechtel, will cost more than Sh300 billion.
What Ethiopia pays
This is compared to a highway that Ethiopia is constructing, which has similarities to the expressway.
The 200-kilometre Modjo-Hawassa Expressway has six lanes, several overpasses and will be a toll road. It will, however, cost Sh350 million per kilometre.
A look at the money spent on road projects shows taxpayers are paying an average Sh181 million for every new kilometre of tarmac built. This is up from the Sh83 million per kilometre five years ago.
According to the World Bank, the average price per kilometre of road in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Sh34 million, while in Ethiopia it is Sh83 million.