Nairobi Expressway couldn't have come at a better time for long-suffering city motorists

Motorists drive on the newly opened JKIA-Westlands Expressway on May 14, 2022. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Cities have a crucial role to play in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over 50 per cent of the global population lives in cities, which are also responsible for around 70 per cent of global energy-related emissions.

As cities grow, demand for urban transport also increases. But how these cities respond to the growing demand will determine the impact on the environment.

A reliable and efficient public transport network is the backbone of a city’s mobility system and is crucial in creating a healthy environment. It is against this background that cities worldwide are working towards improving public transport capacity and efficiency.

President Uhuru Kenyatta embarked on aggressive investment in road network in the country, which has been scaled up to build more highways, urban roads and also to extend rural roads to open up areas to economic activities, trade and commerce.

But one of his key legacy projects is the recently completed Nairobi Expressway, a four-lane and six-lane dual carriageway within the existing median of Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki Way.

The expressway runs over 27km, linking Mlolongo town in Machakos County and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway.

The expressway reaffirms President Kenyatta’s commitment to fostering sustainable urban development as a place for living and working that will redefine the landscape for generations to come.

Apart from contributing to the reduction in carbon emissions and sustainable development, the expressway will ensure residents enjoy efficient transit through the city.

Other than sustainability issues, the expressway was designed to decongest traffic of A8 and meet the demands of JKIA expansion.

It is expected to cut down transport time by 60 per cent across the city. For instance, it takes 15 minutes to travel from Westlands to Mlolongo, a distance that would ordinarily take longer time to cover, given the congestion on Uhuru Highway and Mombasa Road.

The Nairobi Expressway, which opened yesterday to motorised public on a trial basis, will be operated by Moja Express for 27 years.

The expressway has 11 inter-changes and is expected to accommodate 120,000 daily active users. Kenyans cannot hide their excitement as 10,000 people have already registered to use the expressway, whose design speed is 80 kilometres per hour.

Toll charges are computed based on the vehicle type, entry and exit stations. For instance, saloon cars entering the expressway at Westlands and exiting at Mlolongo will pay Sh360.

There are three payment methods, namely cash, Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) and Manual Toll Collection (MTC). Cash users are not obliged to register prior to their trip on the Nairobi Expressway.

An ETC card requires installation of a unit known as On-Board Unit (OBU) in the vehicle for automatic toll payment. It allows you to easily transition the stations without stopping.

Though mobile money is currently not among the payment options, the expressway will in future adopt other payment methods like M-Pesa. Ambulances, police vehicles, military personnel and fire trucks are exempted from payment.

But not all motorised vehicles will be allowed access to the expressway. Those prohibited include Tuk Tuks, wheelbarrows, handcarts, bicycles and scooters and motorcycles. This is largely for safety reasons and lack of appropriate toll charge for the excluded user categories.

There is no doubt that the expressway will revolutionise city transport and the long winding traffic jams on the city’s roads will be a thing of the past.

The author is a Nairobi-based Communications & PR expert