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[Updated] Thika Highway Construction: Route 66 or Road to Hell?

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Now with pics! Scroll down to the updates for the links. This blog post will be updated with news about the Thika highway as and when I find it. Feel free to add your own updates in the comments.

In the last fortnight, I’ve noticed an upswing in the number of visits to the blog triggered by queries on the Nairobi-Thika highway construction. I did blog about it back in November, but that post probably isn’t of much use to anyone looking for information on the project today. So, in the spirit of giving the people what they want, this is a quick weekend round-up of what I have managed to find out.

As we already know, the plan is the expand the road from a four to an eight-lane highway, with all sorts of bells and whistles to keep Kenya moving, eventually giving us just over 50 kilometres of multiple lanes and cruising goodness across three sections. The plans for each are outlined below

Muthaiga Roundabout to Uhuru Highway
As far as I can tell, there will be a flyover at the roundabout, coupled with an underpass. There will be another four-lane flyover at Globe Roundabout, Murang’a Road will be widened to six lanes and University Way will have the full eight. Forest Road to Museum Hill is supposed to get up to six lanes, with a flyover at Limuru Road. All of this vehicular luxury is apparently going to be complemented by footpaths aplenty, but I really hope that none of those go underground, especially at Pangani. God knows I wouldn’t want to come across a Mathare Hospital escapee in an underpass at night.

Muthaiga Roundabout to Kenyatta University
This section is the “proper” highway, if you will. If all goes according to plan, there will be eight lanes between Muthaiga and Kasarani, and six lanes from there to the Kenyatta campus. It looks like the roads department has got a major jones for flyovers and underpasses, because these will again be in place at Kahawa, GSU, Kasarani, Githurai, Survey of Kenya, Kenyatta university and the former Nakumatt site. Given the flyover and underpass fetish, I’m getting the impression that Roads Minister Chris Obure may have visited Birmingham at some point. Why the hell didn’t he ask me out to lunch?

If you forget something and need to turn around to get back to the city, prepare for a wait, because the plans for this section of road are based on limited access and exits. That’s right, Kenyans: no more spontaneous U-turns! My advice? Pull into Mobil Plaza and check your car and kids before you hit the road of no return.

Kenyatta University to Thika
Up to Juja, there are going to be six lanes of traffic, with the requisite underpass at Ruiru Sports Club and a flyover at Eastern Bypass (seriously, was there a game in the transport department to see how many of the things they can fit into 50km of road?). Unlike the Muthaiga-University leg, however, there will be service roads for easier on-off access to the highway, and therefore places to stop and buy the kids a soda when they realise that they really did leave their favourite toy at home.

The three firms that have the contract for the highway project are all Chinese, and are the China Wu Yi Company, Shengli Engineering Construction and Synohydro Corporation Ltd. Interestingly, back in January, China Wu Yi Company was blacklisted for six years by the World Bank on suspicion of shennanigans during bidding for road contracts in the Philippines. I’m sure that now they’ve got the contract, they’ll be on their best behaviour in Kenya. The other two seem fine, though.

Road construction is underway, and it is going to be causing major disruption for at least the next two years. If the road makes up your daily commute, you have my eternal sympathy. The entire enterprise is budgeted to cost us around Ksh 27 billion, funded by government bonds and a $180 million loan from the Africa Development Fund. In other words, we’re putting it on the credit card, which isn’t surprising when you look at the state of our finances.

I’m not on the ground, so I can’t give daily updates on what phase of construction has started, where the worst jams are or which are the best routes to use to try to avoid the jams. Still, I know that people have been coming here looking for information, so consider the comment box open and available for your use. Moderation is off, so your comments should show up straight away if you don’t include any links. Feel free to rant, rhapsodise or otherwise express your sentiments on our journey to traffic bliss.

Updates: While I wrote this post a while ago, I still get a few hits for it from people searching for information about the latest developments. So, as I did with the “It’s Our Time to Eat” post, I’ll be updating this post with the most recent information that I can gather. If you know of anything I’ve missed, please feel free to use the comments to keep others up to speed.

18th March 2010 According to the Daily Nation, over 350 people are going to lose their homes, businesses or places of worship to make way for the Northern Bypass. Progress on this particular bit of roadworks has apparently been slowed by “encroachers.”

20th March 2010 Do you have a spare million or ten lying around that you don’t know what to do with? Land values (or at least prices) in Ruiru and Juja are going up rapidly. Speculate to accumulate!

5th April 2010 Searching for news on progress over the weekend, I managed to find a few pictures of the roadworks. First up, a missionary named Bert Yates had the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures when he travelled to Thika back in February, and has kindly made them available for public view on Facebook. Next, the forum members at SkyscraperCity have got a long-running thread with some commentary and pictures. There you can find a picture of the Forest Lane plans, some screengrabs from an NTV broadcast with artist’s impressions of certain sections, and users’ own pictures of the work that is being done. More links to pics as I find them.

8th April 2010 With regards to the comments: I am not on the ground, so can’t give eyewitness information as to exactly what is going on myself. Can anyone could give Njuguna any information about developments about the Kimbo and toll station areas and what is going on there? I’m sure he’d be very much obliged. Also today, I came across an NTV video describing the demolition of the statue and gate at the National Museum to make way from the highway, as apparently there were built on a reserve intended for the road. It appears that the planning for this infrastructure project may not have been as thorough as one would hope.

20th May 2010 The Standard has a piece postulating that Thika could soon become a suburb of Nairobi, as speculators buy up parcels of land in the hopes of being able to develop them. This is despite the fact that the greater Thika area has been zoned for agricultural use in the Vision 2030 framework. Maybe the developers can install irrigation systems? Nevertheless, there have been a number of developments along the highway, and more are envisioned for the future.

28th May 2010 More pics of the construction have been uploaded to the dedicated SkyscraperCity thread by the ever-helpful user Kenguy, who is doing his best to keep everyone updated. He seems to be the best source for curent developments at the moment, and also seems quite knowledgeable about the project, so if you have any questions, it might be worth your while to register on the website so you can take part in discussions there.

6th August 2010 Nimbys! The good burghers of Runda have decided that they don’t want the northern bypass going through their estate and have complained that it “threatens their lifestyle.” They have a residents’ association and everything! Even a lawyer! Roadworks began on Wednesday despite a court order halting activity until the residents’ petition has been considered. Give it up, guys. You’re not that rich, and you’re not that important. If you were, you’d be living in Karen or Muthaiga.

17th August 2010 Worrying signs in this Nation article about land values along the bypass routes. These have been going up and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. If the areas along the bypass are allowed to be developed for retail or residential development, the roads cease their primary function (the swift flow of through-traffic) and will become just as congested as those roads they are supposed to be relieving. Lets just hope that the planning department have their thinking hats on and don’t grant permission for anything other than rest-stops.

22nd September 2010 God, this whole article from KCB is a mess. Construction has fallen five months behind due to delays in moving sewer and water lines, but Roads Minister Franklin Bett is still “satisfied” with the progress made, and reckons that the roads will be perfectly safe because the flyover pillars have been built to withstant an earthquake of 10.4 on the Richter Scale. Remind me, how many of those have we had lately? Also, apparently motorists are going to be heavily fined if they flout traffic law. Just like they are now, right? I don’t know guys, factoring in the admitted delays and our national propensity to fall into “African time,” I’m beginning to think that the July 2011 completion date was an overoptimistic dream. Also raining on commuters’ parades? The Nation, with dark mutterings from city planners about how Town Halls allowed plots of land too close to the new road, which means that not only is future expansion unlikely, but traffic may not be alleviated after all. Time to buy that helicopter!

8th November 2010 A couple of snippets from the Cutting Edge column in the Nation (yes, yes, I know, but I have a Google Alert set up). While the news that potholes have appeared on the Old North Airport Road just a short while after it was reopened to traffic are worrying, what is more concerning is the report that work along the stretch from the Globe Cinema roundabout via University Way to Uhuru Highway appears to have come to a complete stop. There is no sign of the contractor and no work has been conducted for a number of weeks, according to a concerned citizen. Has someone been hit belatedly by the credit crunch? Maybe they should have sourced local cement instead of importing it from China? Perhaps a key employee has quit? Who knows, but all this does is to delay progress on the road project yet further, making that July 2011 completion date seem ever more out of reach.

9th November 2010 Thanks to Mzalendogood doing a bit of blog-pimping in the comments, I can also point you to a website that appears to be dedicated to progress on the Thika Highway. There are pics! There are progress reports! Questions and comments are invited, but I don’t know how you go about getting them answered, as I am still several thousand kilometres away from needing to use the road. But go on and check it out! Just don’t hand over any credit card or M-Pesa card details unless you feel totally comfortable.

28th January 2011 Looks like the Southern Bypass is also going to get underway in the near future. According to Engineering News,

The road diverts from the Mombasa–Kisumu highway near Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and rejoins the highway at Limuru on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The project is again being done with Chinese money. We have to wonder what our Sino benefactors are getting out of all of this.

[Image by Ma Neeks]

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15 Comments

  1. Kelvin says:

    oh the traffic jams are an absolute nightmare! But I like the idea, I hope it is completed on time and successfully. I really cannot wait to see the flyovers!

  2. Kate says:

    For you information, the Shengli Engineering Construction company is now dealing with several complaints from workers and community affected by the portion of the project they’re handing. Pollution related illnesses, accidents, fatalities, lack of protection for workers, abuse, all of which shows that this company is not “fine” as one would seem to think. Kenyan media is currently looking into it. It is suspected that they do not have proper license to operate in certain areas either where environmental and social impact assessments are critical and mandatory.

  3. Inari says:

    Thanks for the update, Kate. Please feel free to update here on the situation if you find out anything new.

  4. Kangethe says:

    Wooiee, I counted 4 vehicles that had banged onto the road partition blocks during a rainny night.
    Wouldnt it be prudent (or required by law ) to make these blocks have reflective paint (if it is there at all it could do with a repaint).
    it all boils down to safety. Or is it not a priority for the constructor!!!!!.
    Woe unto you if you get to the unfamiliar diversions section at night alone. You would need to leave the car to trace your route out of the maze on foot. That is if thugs dont trace you earlier. Again for heavens sake please make the diversion have reflectives.

  5. Njuguna says:

    High the update ok but some major section of roads sassumed despite large and fast growing population. these sections are Kimbo just after ruiru and famous toll station where famous fellow like mwalimu Njuguna live. Update us please.
    Regards

    Wa Ian

  6. Ken. says:

    To Njuguna.

    I hope you were refering to the section around Githurai Kimbo. Its still under construction with alot of diversions around the clay works. Im not sure about the toll station since I don’t know where it is.

  7. Curious says:

    does anyone have any drawings of how the thika highway will look like after completion?

  8. Stephanie Migot says:

    There are some screengrabs from an NTV broadcast on the SkyscraperCity thread, but I don’t know of anywhere else that you can get artist’s impressions at the moment.

  9. J Wainaina says:

    Is that road construction between Pangani & Kariokor part of the Thika Raod project?

  10. kenya juu says:

    how will one be able to enter the four express lanes on either side from .estates along the road.

  11. Thuku says:

    It is quite stressful to us drivers if u have stayed a while wout using it. From kasarani towards 45 there is a section that is absolute bliss but only momentarily. Once u get onto it vehicles start zooming past u so what the heck! U step on the gas. A bend to the left and all of a sudden a mammoth bump followed by a diversion. Its not funny and i believe the contractor can do better

  12. Mzalendogood says:

    these chinese engineers are great.sme creative person has started a blog on this road. http://www.thikaroad.blogspot.com

  13. paul nyapola says:

    when do we expect the completion

  14. W42010 says:

    Expect the road to be completed this December 2011. But may spill over to 2012. Remember they are 1 year behind schedule.

  15. roselyine onego says:

    where are the current photos of the road

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