Thika Road officially opens

Thika superhighway.
A section of the new opened Thika superhighway. PHOTO/XINHUA
The new Nairobi-Thika highway was officially opened on Friday in an event graced by President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other key government officials.

Build at a cost of Sh31 billion, Thika superhighway – an engineering show-piece whose construction began in April 2009 – is part of an elaborate plan to de-congest traffic in Nairobi.

The project involved changing the existing Thika road from a four-lane carriageway to an eight-lane superhighway, building underpasses, erecting flyovers and providing interchanges at roundabouts.

The highway’s construction budget was initially Sh27 billion but it eventually consumed Sh31 billion, an amount the Kenya National Highways Authority GM Meshack Kidenda attributes to inflation and additional works on the road.

“The 50.4 km project overshot its budget by Sh4 billion due to inflation and additional features that changed design work,” said Mr Kidenda.

Thika superhighway was built in three sections: Uhuru Highway to Muthaiga Roundabout; Muthaiga Roundabout to Kenyatta University; and Kenyatta University to Thika Town. The sections were undertaken by China Wu Yi, Sinohydro and Sheng Li respectively.

Speaking during the commissioning of the road, President Kibaki said the highway provides a reliable transport corridor linking Kenya with her neighbours.

“The superhighway provides a reliable corridor linking Kenya with Ethiopia via Moyale and with Tanzania via Namanga. It is a great example of efforts and commitment to transform Kenya into a strong economic hub for the region,” said Kibaki.

Unfortunately, the road – which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the governments of China and Kenya – was opened amid rising cases of vandalism of its lighting poles, barriers and road signs aimed to enhance safety of vehicles on the road.

According to Mr Kidenda, vandals are increasingly frustrating efforts to fine tune the highway in line with international standards by vandalising the highway’s fixtures meant to aid the flow and safety of vehicles on the superhighway.

“The crooks are destroying street lights, crash barriers and even destroying timer sensitive control panels which cost about Sh100,000 each,” he said.

Mr Kidenda said that although the authority was considering reinforcing the furniture and putting in place a patrol team, Kenyans should also play the policing role and report any cases of vandalism.

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