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State moots new funding plan for Sh160b highway

 Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The dualling of the Rironi-Mau Summit highway will be determined during a meeting between President William Ruto, financiers and contractors, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen said.

The Standard has established that President Ruto is strongly against tolling the road.

Traffic gridlocks that have led to motorists spending the night on the road coupled with accidents have become major concerns on Nairobi-Nakuru and Nakuru-Eldoret highways.

There has been a sustained push for the expansion of the road which is a major transit route for Kenya and other East African countries.

However, many have raised concerns over financing the multi-billion shillings project at a time the economy is struggling.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta initiated the expansion of a 175km section of the highway between Rironi and Mau Summit.

In July 2022, African Development Bank committed to pumping Sh18 billion into the project whose total costs were estimated to be Sh160 billion when its plan was hatched in 2019.

It was to be done under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with a consortium of contractors undertaking it to recover the costs in 30 years from its users at designated toll stations.

The French government, after talking with Uhuru, committed to financing the bulk of the project.

After President Ruto took over, the new administration put the project on hold for renegotiations.

The Transport CS said that having toll stations on the road has been the main point of departure.

Although this will affect the timelines, the Transport minister has assured Kenyans of President Ruto's commitment to implementing the project.

"The existing contract is expensive. It makes it impossible for every Kenyan to use the road. We are looking at ways of doing the project without punishing Kenyans," Murkomen said on Sunday after attending a service at Kingdom Seekers Church in Nakuru.

Murkomen also said that should the dualling of the highway take longer, the government will use quick fixes such as median barriers to separate traffic, especially at the black spots.

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