The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, and Urban Development James Macharia has lauded the completion of the construction of the Nairobi Expressway even as he described the highway project as one of the biggest private investments in Kenya from China to date.
Speaking during the opening of the highway to the public for use on trial basis on Saturday, the CS said the multi-million shilling road project linking Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the western parts of the city will over and above everything help stimulate Kenya’s economic growth.
“It (Nairobi Expressway) is a Foreign Direct Investment. The Kenyan government has not committed any money to this investment. We have not borrowed a single cent on the total amount of about USD 600 (Kshs.70 Billion).” He said
Macharia added; “It is one of the best pieces of infrastructure ever done in Africa. We are proud to witness the start of a trial run which will take three or four weeks before the complete operation.”
CS Macharia further lauded the contractor for delivering the project in record time.
“It was supposed to be finished next year. So it has been completed one year ahead of schedule, starting from October 2019,” The CS noted
According to Macharia, works on the expressway project do not end at its commissioning. He disclosed that the Chinese company that constructed the highway will begin revamping aimed at enhancing the old road (lower section) from Mlolongo all the way to Westlands so as to make sure that those motorists who do not use the Expressway also feel the comfort of using the previous section.
“This beautification will be starting in a few weeks’ time whereby we shall do drainage systems, lighting systems…we shall re-carpet the old to make sure that all of us whether you are driving up here or down there has enhanced comfort and enjoy your drive along this corridor.” He said
The Nairobi Expressway, financed and constructed by a Chinese company, is the first high-speed toll road in East Africa, has generated so much excitement in the country amid optimism the new highway will decongest the Nairobi Metropolitan Area and facilitate seamless movement on the Northern Corridor.
It is expected that this will lead to reduced traffic congestion especially along Mombasa road, Uhuru highway and reduce journey time once it is officially commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Besides being one of Kenya’s major infrastructure projects in recent times, the Nairobi Expressway has impacted the lives of many Kenyans especially since its construction began.
George Karimi, the Director of the Electronic Toll Collection center disclosed that over 3,000 jobs were created during the road construction period, benefiting 200 construction companies and hundreds of local construction equipment companies.
He says a further 500 jobs will be created during the operating period, including in the Electronic Toll Collection unit where there are numerous job vacancies.
“I can tell you that the local staff at the center ranges from 300 to 450. At this station, for instance, we only have one Chinese employee. The training we have received is purely for this new toll system because this is the first time we have used ETC Kenya. So we have been trained well on how to use this electronic device.” Karimi said
The 8-lane elevated dual carriageway is 27.1 km long and connects the country’s biggest airport, the JKIA to the Nairobi Central Business District before extending to Westlands area.
Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta carried out an inspection of the road alongside Chinese ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian, the Head of State commended the contractor for a job well done and expressed confidence that the road will be ready for use by mid this year.
“I want to thank the contractors because we started this project exactly almost to date one year ago when we laid the first box girder and today, almost to the date, three days earlier than one year, we are now laying the last girder.”
“I am confident with the kind of speed that they are moving at, the indicated date for completion of this road is bound to be met. I will be very proud to be able to drive all the way from Machakos turn-off to Rironi and hopefully, at that point, launch the road from Rironi to Mau Summit,” the President said.
Indeed, one of the local engineers who was involved in the construction of the Nairobi Expressway expressed lauded the government for the decision to award the project to a Chinese company.
“Kenya has benefited greatly from China’s expertise in building the expressway. Chinese companies have the best expertise in infrastructure. The government has done well in improving infrastructure and other projects that support fellow citizens. In addition to the Expressway project, some other major highways and road projects within Nairobi and other parts of the country have been implemented by Chinese construction companies.” Ndungu said,
As the first major Public Private Partnership road project between Nairobi and Beijing, the Nairobi Expressway is being built by the China Bridge and Road Engineering Company in partnership with the Kenyan government. The Chinese are responsible for investment, financing, engineering, construction, operation and repair.
Just this week, the first Nairobi Marathon was held on the highway. During the award ceremony, President Kenyatta noted that due to modern infrastructure such as the Nairobi Expressway, tourism, trade and investment sectors were set for a major economic boost.