A road-paving technology the Kenya Roads Board is testing in Machakos County is giving the government hope of deepening its use on cost.
In the county, the board is spending Sh25 million on paving a kilometre of Mavoko-Mua road using cobblestones that have been accepted in other countries for years in revamping low-volume roads.
At Sh25 million, the cost is about Sh15 million less than tarmacking a similar stretch in the region.
“Tarmacking a kilometre of road in this region costs about Sh40 million. Using cobblestones to pave a kilometre of this road will cost around Sh 25 million,” Mr Tom Omai, a senior KRB manager said yesterday.
The road is being redone under the second phase of the National Hygiene Programme dubbed Kazi Mtaani that is employing youth across the country.
Machakos is rich in cobblestones that are mined in Mua Hills that are chiselled on site to create patterns that have attracted many curious residents.
The youth working on the road were trained at the Kenya Institute of Highways and Building Technology.
They work under the supervision of Eduna East Africa Limited, the company contracted to build the road.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua said the cobblestones technology is a panacea for dusty and muddy urban and countryside roads when he visited the site a fortnight ago.
“Machakos is lucky to have cobblestones and we are rolling out a programme of making all our towns quality places free from dust and mud,” he said.
Kazi Mtaani is a national government youth employment programme that has hired thousands of youth across the country to cushion them from economic hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that has disrupted activities.
The old road paving technology is widely used in Europe and other developed countries.
This is despite the demonstrated affordability of the method and its durability.
The government has not been keen on using cobblestones to pave roads, many of them in poor shape and are usually a nightmare during the rainy seasons.
“A major undoing of cobblestones to pave roads is that the technology is relatively slow because it is labour-intensive,” said Mr Omai.
The attitude towards the technology was expected to change in 2015 when engineers and technocrats at the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure created designs for using cobblestones to pave low-volume roads.
This, however, did not accelerate its uptake until the latest move.
Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary (PS) Charles Hinga said the Machakos feeder road is a pilot meant to pave the way for rolling out of the cobblestones technology to address the country’s infrastructural needs “especially on access roads in estates, informal settlements and market areas”.
On Twitter, the PS, under whose Ministry the Kazi Mtaani project is housed, made the case for use of local resources in public projects to guarantee the youth opportunities.
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