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Town in the dark; Eldoret traffic light system not working for motorists

By Lynn Kolongei | December 7th 2021

Roaming around the streets of Eldoret town - best known as City of Champions - one notices dozens of upcoming skyscrapers, a clear indication that the urban centre is thriving economically. 

Eldoret, the capital of agricultural North Rift, is also witnessing an increase in traffic flow as more investors in business enterprises, government and private institutions settle in the area. 

But what stands out in the fast-growing town is the dysfunctional traffic lights that have left traffic to be controlled manually by traffic police. 

The old traffic lights that were mounted at busy roundabouts along the town’s main Uganda Road have been collecting dust over the past three decades. They were reportedly disconnected in the 1990s through orders of then-leaders over claims that they aggravated snarl-ups and accidents. 

The Northern Transport Corridor, which Uganda Road is off, is the major highway linking Kenya to Uganda and South Sudan, but does not have operational traffic lights, causing heavy traffic snarl-ups, especially at peak hours or during heavy rains.

What is left as an option to the town is to deploy traffic officers who control flow at roundabouts and busy junctions.

Local residents who had the experience of the first traffic lights in the town in the 1990s claimed that the town witnessed rampant accidents as motorists had a hard time using traffic lights.

The aged, respected men from the region had resolved that the traffic lights be disconnected as they served no benefit to the few motorists who owned vehicles to access town.

Ironically, about five years ago, motorists in the town were calling on the county government to fasttrack the restoration of traffic lights to ease the flow of vehicles and rid the town of congestion since the need for traffic lights is glaring.

They noted that police officers were overworked and that traffic flow was made impossible, especially when the officers take shelter during heavy downpours.

It gets even worse especially during the harvest season when farmers ferry their produce to various destinations like the National Cereal and Produce (NCPB) stores using tractors or trucks that are driven across the Central Business District (CBD).

Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has been toying with the idea of constructing a by-pass on the town’s outskirts to decongest the town for the past two years now.

Peter Ouma, a motorist residing in Uasin Gishu County, said traffic lights would make it easier for motorists in easing congestion and roadblocks by other motorists.

Paul Kibiwott, another motorist, said police have taken advantage of their manual control of traffic to demand bribes from motorists.

Despite the county spending millions of shillings to improve the road network, the traffic lights have not been given priority.

Uasin Gishu County Police Commander Ayub Gitonga said the lack of functional traffic lights poses a great challenge to the traffic department.

“It is our wish that the county instals traffic lights to ease control of traffic and many other benefits it brings forth,” said Gitonga.

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