Players in the transport and tourism sectors have welcomed the start of Kwa Jomvu-Makupa causeway expansion that will ease traffic at Kibarani along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
The 11.3km road will boost tourism, ease movement of people and goods and improve efficiency at the port of Mombasa.
Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) corporate communications assistant director Charles Njogu said on Wednesday that the current narrow road handles 19,000 vehicles daily moving in and out of Mombasa, resulting in huge traffic snarl-ups.
“The new road will have six lanes — three lanes on both sides — and once completed, it will decongest the town. It will also increase the traffic count, and perhaps doubling it,” he said.
Mr Njogu said the road, whose construction has already started at Kibarani, will have a service lane on each side and several interchanges along its major traffic exchange points.
The old and ageing road has been a nightmare to motorists because it is narrow and can no longer handle the increasing traffic in Mombasa and its environs.
“We have discovered that traffic snarl-ups always build up at Changamwe before extending to other sides of the highway. In this particular place, we shall set up a double-decker interchange to address the problem.
“There will be several exit routes to end the traffic menace in that area,” Mr Njogu said.
The road starts at the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Digo Road running northerly through Changamwe, Miritini and Mazeras before terminating shortly after Mariakani weighbridge.
The Makupa Causeway is crucial as it connects the Kenya Ports Authority, Moi International Airport and Standard Gauge Railway Miritini terminus among other industries at the mainland.
It is part of the Sh6.5 billion expansion project of the Mombasa-Jomvu road to a six-lane superhighway launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta last year.
The works along the highway comprise the strengthening of the existing bituminous road and widening the road to three lanes dual carriageway with service roads, footpaths and street lighting.
The upgrade also includes construction of new structures, replacing existing structures with new ones and provision of new interchanges at various locations along the road to avoid traffic conflict between the main carriageway and cross roads.
Motorists and commuters, who have been spending hours in the traffic jam, said their nightmares will end once the road is completed.
In an interview on Wednesday, Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) national chairman William Ojonyo said the construction of the road is good.
But he said the timing of the project is wrong since the cargo volume transported by road from the port of Mombasa has reduced by 40 per cent. Most cargo from the port, he noted, is now being carried through the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) cargo trains.
“It is a good initiative but at the moment, the cargo volume transported by road is low as most goods are ferried by SGR cargo trains. The government can as well initiate such a road at the ICD [Inland Container Depot] Nairobi, where most cargo is destined to nowadays,” he said.
Car Importers Association of Kenya chairman Peter Otieno hailed the expansion of the road, saying the association advocated for the same way back in 2006.
“This has been our dream for many years. We started talking and pushing the government long ago to act on the road, which is the backbone of our economy,” he said.
Mr Otieno said car importers use the road often after clearing their vehicles at the Mombasa port but it has been a huge challenge.
“The expansion of the road will mean more vehicles using the road without encountering any traffic jam, and that will also speed up the movement of cargo and other commodities from the port of Mombasa,” Mr Otieno said.
Kenya Transporters Association operations co-ordinator Mercy Ireri told the Nation the construction is welcome since it will speed up the transportation of cargo from the port city to other destinations.
“We are affected by traffic jams at Kibarani which has led to several challenges in terms of transporting cargo. The road is narrow and can no longer cope with the increasing number of trucks, matatus and private vehicles plying the highway. Hopefully, the expansion will end this problem,” Ms Ireri said.
Commuters using the road have termed the construction a milestone in ending the nightmares they encounter daily.
“I live in Mariakani, I have been travelling to Kongowea market daily to fetch fresh farm produce like tomatoes, kales, cabbages and onions. Traffic jam has been my biggest nightmare. This new road will now boost my business,” Ms Charinza Pendo said.
Tourism sector players, led by the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye, hailed the project, saying Mombasa has had serious infrastructural challenges which has affected business operations.
“The tourism sector has particularly been hit because we depend on the movement of motorists. But the road will boost the sector,” Mr Ikwaye said.
“The road will raise Mombasa into a conference destination which is significant to the development of tourism. It will also improve efficiency at the port which has been challenging due to lack of external infrastructure outside the facility,” Mr Ikwaye said.
Trucks have been leaving the port and causing congestion at the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
“But the completion of the road will make the port more efficient. We have lost a lot of business because people are afraid to be stuck in jams at Kibarani and Likoni ferry,” Mr Ikwaye added.
But with the construction of the Dongo Kundu road and the Mombasa-Kwa Jomvu section of the Nairobi -Mombasa road, Mr Ikwaye said Kenya is looking at growing business in the region.
Plaza Beach Hotel sales and marketing manager Daniel Ogechi said at times both international and local tourists cancel their bookings in hotels within north coast after spending hours in traffic jams at Kibarani and Nyali bridge.
“They would rather spend their holidays in hotels within the CBD. But the road will boost our business because there will be no traffic jams and our tourists will not be caught up in the gridlock. A tourist can spend an hour at Kibarani due to traffic jam,” he said.
“The Mombasa-Kwa Jomvu section under financing by the government and the African Development Bank is the first phase of the longer Mombasa-Mariakani corridor earmarked for expansion,” KeNHA said in a statement
Financing for Phase 2 — Jomvu — Mariakani section — will be revealed at a later date. “This road is very strategic and is approximately 41km and forms part of the 500km Mombasa-Nairobi highway that also constitutes part of the Northern Corridor linking the Kenyan Coast with the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Sudan and Rwanda,” Mr Njogu added.