Once again, it is long rains season in Kenya and as usual death and destruction of property is expected.
The heavy rains that result into flooding have so far claimed lives of over 20 people, displaced hundreds and destroyed property worth thousands of U.S. dollars across the East African nation. In the capital Nairobi, the rains have become motorists' worst nightmare since they render roads impassable and cause heavy traffic snarl-ups. Most of the roads in the city flood as soon as the rains start disrupting transport activities.
However, one highway has stood out as a model of how to build a road that is all-weather during this rainy season in the East African nation. As major roads become impassable due to rains, motorists using Thika Superhighway are having an easy time driving along the highway that links Nairobi to Central and Northern part of the country.
The fact that the road does not flood when it rains and has no traffic jams due to its over and underpasses has made the highway a favorite of motorists during this rainy season. "I wish all roads in Nairobi were built like Thika Superhighway. Traffic in the city would never stall when it starts to rains, especially during a season like this," said motorists John Busurwa on Saturday.
Busurwa, who lives in Embakasi on the east of Nairobi works at a university along Thika Superhighway."I drive every morning and evening to and from the institution. I have been doing this for the past year," said Busurwa, who lives in his house in Embakasi.
Before the start of the rains, Busurwa recounted he would drive from his home, use Jogoo Road into town then join Thika Road to his work place."I used to leave home at about 5:45 a.m. (local time). At this hour, there is usually no traffic jam.
I would arrive at my work place at about 7:00 a.m.," he said.However, when the rains started, Busurwa found this routine unworkable because of heavy traffic jam along Outering and Jogoo roads. "There is a day I spend close to three hours on the road despite leaving home very early.
It was raining that morning. Trouble started along Outering Road. The road was flooded with rain water making it impassable. Along Jogoo Road, the snarl-up was unusually heavy because the road was waterlogged," he recounted.He reached city center at about 8:00 p.m. and thereafter joined Thika Road."That is when I appreciated the importance of having good roads. There was absolutely no traffic jam along the highway going to Thika and the road was not flooded.
It took me less than 20 minutes to arrive at my workplace yet I had spent close to two hours from home to city center," recalled Busurwa of the incident that happened April 3.Since then, he decided to change route, choosing to use a long way to work. "From Embakasi, I now take the bypass to Ruai, then to Ruiru where I join the Thika Superhighway.
Then I drive towards town to my place of work. The route is long, but if you compare it with staying in traffic jams, it is worth it. Besides that, the road has no traffic jams and is not flooded," explained Busurwa, who said he will use it to and from work until the end of rain season.
Martin Njoroge, who stays in Thika and works in Nairobi, noted that Thika Superhighway has become a perfect example of how to build a road. "I believe the quality of a road, especially here in Kenya, is tested during the rainy season. This is when one knows whether a contractor did shoddy or good work. Some of the roads build by local contractors cannot stand the harsh rainy season. The roads develop potholes because they flood," he said.
Njoroge commutes from Thika to Nairobi every morning and evening. He has not changed his schedule ever since the long rains season started in Kenya last month. "I leave home at 6:00 a.m. and after about an hour, I am in the city center.
There is usually no traffic jam along Thika Superhighway. Most of the time I get heavy traffic at Pangani area but it is usually not as heavy as the ones on other routes," he said, noting that transport operators along the route have had no reason to increase fares when it rains because there are no traffic jams.
Last week, while it took him about an hour from Thika to Nairobi, a distance of about 50 km, Njoroge spend close to two hours going to Westlands, less than 10 km away from the city center. "I could not believe it. It was raining that morning and the roads were waterlogged. Motorists were using alternative routes but there was a lot of traffic," he said.
When it rains, some motorists, especially those going on the east of Nairobi prefer to use Thika Road to avoid traffic jam along Jogoo Road. "We hope these rains are teaching contractors and the government a lesson. They should get lessons on how to build good roads from Thika Superhighway. This is the only way we can stop being inconvenienced during rainy season," noted Njoroge and Busurwa.
The over 35 million dollars Thika Superhighway was built by Chinese contractors. Many have hailed the road, which has become a landmark in outgoing President Mwai Kibaki's legacy. Xinhua