The Thika super highway
Thika super highway is Kenya’s autobahn. Or freeway. I probably go a little too far with the comparison. Well, it is the only one of its kind in east and central Africa. It consists of over passing roads or multi grades in place of our usual round-abouts and T-junctions.
Driving on the developing Thika super highway gives one a rare chance to gloat about being Kenyan. I could happily lose my way on this behemoth of a road, and gladly just drive on…
The need for a Thika super highway
The road is one of the major arteries leading into and out of Nairobi city. It serves a great populace of people living in Kiambu County, in some Nairobi estates among others. It provides a route to the current Eastern and North Eastern provinces.
Rush hour is crazy hour on Thika road. It becomes one major parking lot stretching for kilometres as motorists pile up. The population served by Thika road has grown exponentially, so that the original design of the road is in danger of being over whelmed.
It was for this reason then that plans were conceived to upgrade the road into the Thika super highway.
Then minister for transport, Mr. Michuki announced that the African Development Bank had provided some sh.18 billion to finance the project. Clearly, it was to be of massive proportions. The China government also chipped in financially, and also in expertise, with the contractors being Chinese. In all, the Thika super highway was projected to cost about sh.26 billion.
Building of the Thika super highway
Projections for traffic and population growth are usually taken into account when designing a road. A projection of say, 20 years, 30 years or more is done, and so are the anticipated loads on the road. The road is then designed to meet the projections.
The road was split up into three phases, divided among three Chinese contractors. It was to start in November 2008.
The phases were as follows;
- The first part would start at Kenyatta Avenue. Having 8 lanes, it would go all the way to Muthaiga round about, with a bridge over globe cinema round about, and a grade separated interchange at Pangani. This would be done by China Wu Yi Company, at a cost of about sh.8.05 billion.
- The second part would proceed from the Muthaiga junction, with a grade separated junction. An 8-lane dual carriageway will stretch all the way to Kenyatta University. It will have grade separated junctions at outer ring road, Kasarani, Githurai and eastern bypass junction. The construction will be done by Sinohydro Corporation.
- The third part of Thika super highway stretches as a 6-lane dual carriage way to Thika. It will also have an overpass at Ruiru. It is to be done by Shengli Engineering Construction Company. This constitutes the longest stretch.
The construction of Thika super highway is indeed a new chapter in road building in Kenya. It seeks to do away with round-abouts and T-junctions. Instead, it will have overpasses, under passes, cross drainage systems and pedestrian grade separators.
All this is an effort to decongest the Central Business District.
Kenya’s infrastructure is slowly improving but still has a long way to go. Thika super highway is a great effort. But a lot more can be done. For instance, direct traffic away from the C.B.D. Develop other towns like Thika or Kiambu, and let them have courts and other government offices. The county idea should help with this.
An improved and effective public transport system would allow many of us leave our cars at home. Maybe the next phase of infrastructure development should be in railway. Or separate roads for cyclists.
Current work on by-passes is also a positive effort in directing traffic effectively. The estimated distance of the by-passes is about 110kms, and includes the eastern, southern and northern by-passes.
Local contractors are not making a killing from the developments as would be expected. They simply cannot handle the scope of works involved. Experience with many is that they do really shoddy jobs, while mismanaging the funds. There are few, however, that are an exception. Kenyan contractors do need to improve to help our country develop.
Indeed, these are interesting times in Kenya. The landscape is daily changing. The Thika super highway is currently the grandest of them all.