Sh300bn Mombasa mega highway to bypass Nairobi

The proposed Mombasa-Nairobi Expressway will bypass the capital city to branch off just past Konza and terminate onto the Nakuru highway in Kikuyu, design maps of the high-speed road have revealed.

The Sh300 billion expressway, to be built by American conglomerate Bechtel, is set to start any time after June according to project documents seen by the Business Daily.

It will turn off before reaching Athi River, cut through Ongata Rongai and Ngong to join the Nairobi-Nakuru highway in Kikuyu town.

An offshoot of the expressway will pass through Kisaju and Isinya areas, snaking its way to Maai Mahiu to serve travellers to Western Kenya.

Bechtel, a US-based private construction conglomerate, won the multi-billion-shilling contract in a government-to-government deal that formed part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s discussions with President Donald Trump during his US visit last year.

The first detailed map of the expressway also shows that the 525-kilometres road will have 22 inter-changes with a total length of 48 kilometres and another 189 kilometres of paved roads, making more than 700kms of construction.

The speedway will run largely parallel to the current Mombasa-Nairobi highway.

The loop around Nairobi links up with the expanded Nakuru highway in what signals an intention to connect the Coast to the Western parts of the country.

The plan to build an offshoot to Maai Mahiu was arrived at in October 2018, as per timelines showed in the documents.

Kenya National Highways Authority assistant director of corporate communications Charles Njogu said the State agency could not comment on the designs as discussions about the expressway are ‘still ongoing.’

“The whole idea to decongest the city remains central even as we conceive the expressway design. We will give a final overview of the project when we are ready. Remember this was a design and build deal much as KenHa was still central to its implementation,” Mr Njogu said.

Transport and Infrastructure Secretary James Macharia had not responded to our queries on why the mega highway was designed to bypass the capital.

Bechtel estimates that the highway will create 500 jobs during construction and involve local businesses in supplying up to 100,000 tonnes of cement and 40,000 tonnes of steel expected to be used on the road.

Internet Service Providers will also get an opportunity to lease the 6 by 100 millimetre pipes running along the expressway in addition to other dedicated service areas to be concessioned.

“The contract includes development of three additional Special Economic Zones along the alignment next to strategic interchanges. These SEZs can bring additional revenue to the national and county governments,” says Bechtel.

The expressway plan is now at an advanced phase, with the commercial contract having been signed in August last year after five months’ negotiations.

The Treasury also agreed to the structure in November 2018, according to the contractor’s schedule of ‘significant milestones.’

This will be Kenya’s first expressway and the largest single-contract road project since Independence. It also signifies a Western nations’ claim of the China-dominated infrastructure pie.

The Chinese are currently constructing the second phase of the country’s flagship railway project to Naivasha after completing the Mombasa-Nairobi section, which they are currently running.

Concerns over employment of foreigners and locking out of local businesses in the supply of goods and services for the railway project were rife, making for an interesting comparison when the US firm takes up the project later this year.

The American firm is already promising opportunities to partner with local universities to hire graduates and create internships for mentorship from experienced professionals.

Bechtel also promises to develop a local supply chain and engage with the community to address issues such as local youth unemployment and health.

“We will also create a suppler forum events for sourcing of goods and services targeting locally available products,” Bechtel says in the documents.

The road mooted in 2015 is expected to provide stiff competition to the Standard Gauge Railway’s Madaraka Express whose passenger trains take up to six hours to reach Mombasa.

There are also just two trains available, and the last mile access to and from the termini have been a thorny issue to travellers.

Motorists on the expressway will be expected to cut the total travel time between the two cities to four hours.

There are also plans to dual the Mombasa highway in what will provide travellers with even more options to move between the country’s two biggest cities.

Bechtel has also done Gabon’s national infrastructure and is among the leading US infrastructure firms with $17 billion worth of projects booked last year alone. The firm has a presence in all the seven continents.

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