The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) says a road accident that occurred at Mlolongo area on Mombasa Road at 3pm Thursday led to traffic gridlock that lasted several hours, forcing some home-bound motorists to spend the night on the road.
Frustrated motorists took to social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to voice their disappointment, with some revealing that as late as 4am Friday, they were still stuck in the snarl-up.
A Twitter user by the name Slim Bandit (@HamK_) tweeted: “It is 1am, and traffic is still at standstill on the Kyangombe Road towards Mombasa Road. Guys have resorted to parking their cars and sleeping by the roadside.”
Another user, whose Twitter handle is @Tim_abner, said: “I got home at 4am after being stuck on Mombasa Road for 8 hours. @KeNHAKenya there were people with babies, tourists have missed flights, etc.”
Ronoh Cornelius (@kipro_hon) said: “In case you are travelling to Machakos or Kitengela, know that Mombasa Road is your second home. Ni kubaya (it is terrible).”
Another Twitter user, whose handle is @Otiekam, said: “Mombasa Road users, we urgently need to stage a demo to have the contractor build sufficient relief roads as the road is being built. We can’t continue spending at least six hours on the road daily.”
Blogger Robert Alai tweeted: “Mombasa Road users should sue KeNHA for the kind [of] experiences they go through on the road. Contractors are supposed to create alternative routes for users of the main route [that is] being remade. What Mombasa Road users experience shouldn’t be excused.”
With users’ frustrations increasingly boiling over as days go by, KeNHA says there are plans to ensure the road under construction has at least two lanes at every point of the stretch.
KeNHA’s communications representative, Sam Kumba, told The Standard that the Thursday, August 26 detestable traffic jam was caused by, among others, a road accident at Mlolongo.
“The accident led to heavy traffic that stretched all the way to Athi River. It also extended to Mlolongo service lane. As a result, the gridlock affected vehicles moving towards Athi River and Mombasa directions from the central business district,” said Kumba.
According to the KeNHA rep, the accident was “not fatal”.
“The motorists involved in the accident had refused to agree between themselves on how to solve the issue, forcing them to wait for traffic police to come and intervene. It was during the wait that the traffic jam started building up.”
Kumba says efforts are underway to ensure that the available part of the road is expanded to two lanes, so as to ease traffic flow.
Asked on when that would be done, he said: “This should be done immediately. We have asked the contractor to ensure two lanes are opened all the way, especially from the JKIA diversion, where Mombasa-bound motorists are currently using only one lane.”
The KeNHA officer said motorists’ impatience, leading to them overlapping, worsened the traffic jam, as “all alternative escape spaces had been filled up by vehicles”.
To avert an incident similar to that witnessed on Thursday night, Kumba said the agency’s officials will, on Friday, August 27 take a drive on the Mombasa Road stretch affected by constructions to map out areas for expansion.
“We are working closely with the contractor and the [KeNHA] Director-General to ensure that is done promptly,” he said.
KeNHA said, moving forward, it would be informing motorists in advance on expected interruption of traffic flow on Mombasa Road.
Since the construction of the 27.1-kilometre Nairobi Express Way began in October 2019, motorists have been experiencing choking gridlock on the route, as the number of lanes on both sides of traffic have been significantly reduced.
The Sh59 billion project is scheduled for completion in June 2022.
KeNHA on Wednesday, August 25, said the highway is 57 per cent complete, with the heavy works having been accomplished.
“Between now and December 2021, we are likely to see all the heavy works involving deep excavation, diversions completed,” KeNHA chairman Wangai Ndirangu said on Wednesday.
“For the period between January 2022 and June 2022, we will proceed to install the infrastructure that will allow us to operate the road furniture, marking, and the tolling booths.”
KeNHA did not give details on the causes of the delay.
The Nairobi Expressway begins at Mlolongo, connects Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the CBD, and then terminates at James Gichuru in Westlands.