Kenya

Lamentations as Nairobians spend another night on Mombasa Road

Lamentations as Nairobians spend another night on Mombasa Road

Many passengers spent up to seven hours on the road on Thursday night.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Nairobi residents who use Mombasa Road now say the pain of spending hours on the road has become unbearable.

On Thursday night, just like many other nights, travellers had to endure long hours on the road while others spent the night there in a heavy traffic snarl-up.

Motorists and commuters have had to suffer the consequences of the ongoing construction of the Sh62 billion Nairobi Expressway despite assurances by officials to minimise the traffic gridlock.

Jeff Angote, a Nation photojournalist, said he reached his destination at 2am after leaving the city centre at 7pm.

“I live in Katani and I use Mombasa Road every day and this traffic mess has become unbearable. Almost every other night we are forced to spend hours on the road as we cannot walk to our homes in the dead of night,” he said.

Social media was also awash with accounts of what people felt was amiss.

Dr Mary Mugo, who also uses the road, blamed the China Road and Bridge Corporation, who are building the expressway, for digging trenches along the road, forcing motorists into a single lane instead of three.

“How is Mombasa Road people got home at 2.04 am why would the contractor dig trenches right, left, and center? Why would they not do one side at a time? These Chinese seem not to care about us,” she said.

Kepha Murage also blamed the contractor and wondered why trenches are not refilled once dug.

“The contractor is busy making trenches everywhere. Why can’t he refill some to enable easy passage? We are (being) treated like people without a Government. We are on our own. How can a contractor make trenches all over the road at the same, inbound and outbound not bothering if we have people who use the road?”

Another motorist said he left his office at 4pm and got home - 26km down Mombasa Road in Athi River - at 2am.

“The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) is there anything you can do to improve movement on Mombasa Road? Can't the Road contractor be more organised?” he posed.

No justification

Kanini Kaseo also wondered why the contractor has done little to make it easier for motorists to manoeuvre.

“Is the contractor not obliged to adhere to his terms? Is there budgetary allocation for diversions/ signage/ dust mitigation? Is he guided by his perception of who he thinks lives in Westlands vs who lives in Mlolongo?” he wondered.

Traffic

The situation along Mombasa Road near Nation Plant at 11:25pm on Thursday night. The traffic stretched from Airtel Center all the way to Mlolongo.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Motorists now want the contractor to create alternative roads for them to use during the construction process of the expressway.

The highway, which is expected to reduce travel time between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and Westlands, will open in April next year, according to Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.

In April, the CS said what users are experiencing is only short-term pain.

“In the meantime, I know there are a lot of inconveniences as people are spending longer hours in traffic but the reason we are constructing the Nairobi Expressway is to solve the traffic jam that was there before,” he said.

“If there was no traffic congestion before there would be no justification to construct the highway. This pain we are having now is very short-term pain.”

The project, now at an advanced stage, will see Kenyans pay a small price for the greater good for the 27km stretch, whose construction will ensure "seamless flow of traffic", among other economic benefits, according to the CS.

People using Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway and Waiyaki Way are the most affected.

The work has over the past year burdened road users with long hours in traffic.

This is worse during the peak hours, when motorists hurry to beat the curfew that was imposed as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Despite the lost productivity and time, CS Macharia said there were losses even before the construction began and that "these are the losses we want to mitigate".