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New infrastructure projects to speed up national development, says KeNHa boss

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Financial Standard | February 2nd 2021

Kenya National Highways Authority CEO Peter Mundinia [PHOTO: Boniface Okendo]

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHa) is undertaking some of the country’s most modern and ambitious projects aimed at increasing the capacity of existing road corridors as well as upgrading road infrastructure for sustainable development. Financial Standard spoke to Director General Peter Mundinia on this and other developments. 

KeNHa through China Road and Bridge Corporation is undertaking one of the most prestigious road projects in the region - the Nairobi Expressway. What informed the need for the new road?

The Nairobi Expressway is part of the Mombasa–Malaba National Trunk Road (Northern Corridor), which is the backbone of Kenya’s road network and a critical transport corridor for the passage of transit goods through our borders to our landlocked neighbours. Due to increased traffic on the road, the section between Mlolongo and Westlands has been identified as crucial and in need of urgent improvement. This section serves several industrial and residential centres as well as motorists to and from the central business district. Due to budget constraints, the government entered into a privately initiated investment proposal with China Road and Bridge Corporation to construct the section between Mlolongo to James Gichuru Road Junction with KeNHA as the implementing agency. The project addresses the challenges posed along the A8 corridor, including traffic congestion, lengthy travel times over short distances, as well as offering an alternative route for motorists.

How does the tolling concept work?

Road tolling is a method of raising revenues through the imposition of fees on vehicles using the road. The project investor provides finance for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the road for a negotiated concession period (27 years in the case of the Nairobi Expressway) upon which they hope to recoup their investment through the imposition of tolls. Road tolls are an alternative way of financing road infrastructure development and maintenance to meet the current budgetary deficits. Road tolls introduce greater equity into the funding mix and also diversifies the funding sources, which is prudent financial management. Road tolls do not amount to double taxation since the Road Maintenance Fuel Levy (RMLF) only funds maintenance of existing roads and is not adequate for the entire road network of 160,876km.   

What commercial benefits are expected from the opening of the Mombasa Southern Bypass to Kwale County and beyond?

The Mombasa Southern Bypass is also referred to as the Dongo Kundu Bypass and is being implemented in three phases. Phase 1, which is already complete, has catalysed evacuating cargo to and from the Port of Mombasa. Previously, Mombasa used to experience huge delays in the evacuation of cargo from the port due to massive traffic congestion. Currently, Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Dongo Kundu Bypass are under implementation, which will provide a faster alternative route to the South Coast, which has some of the best tourist activities. The creation of the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone will also create thousands of employment and will transform Mombasa into a modern trade hub and one of the most preferred tourist destinations.

The Western Bypass is being touted as the best highway ever built in Kenya in recent times. Why is it so unique?

The ongoing construction of the Nairobi Western Bypass was initiated to complete ring roads around Nairobi following completion of the Eastern Bypass, Southern Bypass and Northern Bypass. The Western Bypass will serve as an additional bypass to and from the Central Business District and is due for completion by 2022. This project is complementary to the Nairobi Expressway and is aimed at diverting traffic away for the central business district while creating a viable transport route to Kiambu County and its environs. It will also be a lucrative location for businesses looking to move away from conventional commercial centres such as Westlands and Parklands. This will, in turn, spur economic growth around the project areas.

What are some of the biggest projects that you have overseen so far that you would say are the highlight of your career at KeNHa?

The Kenol–Sagana–Marua Road, which forms part of the “Great North Road/Trans-African Highway No 4” from Cairo in Egypt through Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Dodoma, Lusaka, and Gaborone to Cape Town in South Africa. This section of the corridor is significant in connecting the Port of Mombasa to Addis Ababa through Nairobi, Isiolo and Moyale. The corridor is a key road in supporting trade between Kenya and Ethiopia and also the Horn of Africa.

The improvement and expansion of this corridor will increase the capacity of the corridor and accommodate more traffic volumes, reduce travel times and enhance road safety for road users.

The other one is the ongoing construction of the Lamu-Witu-Garsen Road, which is currently at about 90 per cent and is complemented by the already completed Lamu Port Link Road. These roads will open up the Coastal region and link to the New Lamu Port, which will create employment.

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