US firm wins deal to build Kenya’s first high-speed highway

Bechtel recently opened its Africa office in Nairobi
Bechtel recently opened its Africa office in Nairobi. PHOTO/FILE
US- based engineering firm Bechtel International Inc. has signed a Sh230 billion commercial agreement with the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) for construction of a 473-kilometre Nairobi-Mombasa high-speed expressway.

KeNHA director general Peter Mundinia said the signing of the deal has paved the way for the next stage of mobilisation of financing from export credit agencies in the United States of America.

“Bechtel has been selected to build the first high-speed expressway in Kenya. The new 473-kilometre route will vastly improve the connectivity, efficiency and the safety of the road between Nairobi and the country’s main sea port of Mombasa,” Mr Mundinia said in a press statement.

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It is expected that agencies such as the US Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) will finance the project.

The controlled-access Nairobi–Mombasa expressway is designed for consistent speeds of 120 kilometres per hour, reducing the journey time between Nairobi and Mombasa from the current ten hours to four hours.

“It will have four lanes with provision for future increase to six lanes and 19 interchanges,” Mr Mundinia said, adding that motorists using the expressway will be charged toll fees.

According to KeNHA, the project has been structured to achieve early completion under a fast-track delivery model that allows concurrent design and construction.

“It is projected under the proposed commercial contract that the 473km highway will be completed in ten sections within the next six years,” Mr Mundinia said.

The first section, from the junction with Namanga Road near Kitengela will have an interchange near Konza ICT City and a spur road to Kyumvi (Machakos Turnoff) on Mombasa Road. This section is anticipated to open to traffic in October 2019.

Bechtel, which is one of the largest construction companies in the world, recently opened its Africa office in Nairobi, Kenya, from where it plans to launch its battles for mega projects in the continent.

The entry of Bechtel – together with its financial backing by the US Exim Bank is expected to complicate matters for Chinese multinationals who have been winning tenders for local projects funded by the China Exim Bank.