US$2.9bn state of the art expressway to be constructed in Kenya

3 January 2018

Kenya is eyeing to construct a brand new road between Mombasa and Nairobi instead of expanding the existing highway. Without upgrading the current road into an expressway, the government has decided to construct a completely new six-lane expressway to run side by side with the existing one.

Traveling options

In another three years, a Kenyan traveling from Mombasa to Nairobi will have at least four major options. If one chooses the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the train takes about five hours. In the case of taking a flight, they would land at the coastal town in an hour. However, when traveling by road, one will have the two roads to pick from.

The state-of-the art expressway will include 76 overpasses, 21 underpasses, 189 culverts and 20 interchanges. It will reduce the traveling duration in between the two cities to 3 and a half hours, plus the travelers will pass through 22 major towns which include: Emali, Mtito Andei, Voi, Mariakani among others; before reaching their destination.

Moreover, the six-lane expressway project is under the execution of Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction and civil engineering company in America.

The contractor building the controversial expressway can sell it to another private contractor. The new contractor can charge users toll fees to recoup the billions invested in the project.

“Under the Exim Bank financing model, the government has the opportunity to privatize or securitize the individual sections of the expressway. This can reduce the total borrowing requirements,” said the Director General of the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) Engineer Peter Mundinia.

However, according to a source familiar with the project, “Private investors will buy the road and charge toll fees. The fee is in line with the initial Public Private Partnership (PPP) model once the construction is complete.”

The project is the first multi-billion ‘private road’ in the region. Kenha is contradicting the Ministry of Transport which has turned down claims concerning the contract signing.

The project cost

Kenha which handed the project to the American firm without a competitive process, says the development is under its mandate. Available estimates show that the project cost is US$2.9bn, excluding the cost of buying the land.

Kenha also says that its economic projections show that there is an infrastructural symbiotic relationship between the SGR and the new road as it offers connectivity for people, business and communities along the road.

“Once completed, the expressway will play a critical role in improving Kenya’s transportation logistics and trade competitiveness while supporting the spatial and industrial development along the corridor,” Mundinia said.

Kenha is defending the decision to opt for the construction of a new road on grounds that it is distinct from the PPP alternative. Furthermore, it offers a new alignment design as a high speed six-lane expressway of higher capacity and safety standards.

Furthermore, the expressway project includes the highway capacity through construction of the greater Nairobi-Southern Bypass which has been planned for several years, thereby contributing to decongestion of the fast-growing Nairobi Metropolitan Area.

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