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Revealed: Kenya’s most expensive highways

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Economy

 James Macharia
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Mombasa’s Dongo Kundu Bypass is Kenya’s most expensive road, having cost the taxpayer a whopping Sh2.7 billion per kilometre, the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has disclosed in a new document detailing the cost of major roads countrywide.

The nine-kilometre section between Mwache and Mteza or Phase Two of the bypass is being built at a total cost of Sh24 billion, making it the most expensive road in the country’s history.

The road has two major sea bridges spanning a total of 2.1 kilometres, which its builders say were the biggest drivers of the high cost.

KeNHA’s decision to publish the cost at which roads are being built countrywide comes in the wake of rising concern over inflated pricing of construction and its ultimate impact on public finance.

The Treasury has this year allocated Sh116 billion for road construction, making it one of the top recipients of public funds.

The KeNHA disclosures show that building roads in Mombasa costs much more than similar work in other parts of the country and contractors say that is because of the challenging terrain that often requires heavy reinforcement.

The other two phases of the Mombasa bypass are also among the most expensive road projects in the country.

The 11-kilometre Phase One of the bypass between Miritini and Mwache that was officially opened in June is priced at Sh1.15 billion per kilometre, which KeNHA has attributed to difficult terrain and security features, including a canopy on a one-kilometre stretch along the Moi Airport boundary.

Phase Three of the road covering seven kilometres between Mteza and Kibundani links the highway to the Likoni-Lunga Lunga Road, and is priced at Sh571.4 million per kilometre.

It comes with a sightseeing bay and 88 hectares of mangroves replanted along this section.

The dual carriage 27-kilometre bypass is being constructed under the Mombasa Port Area Road Development Project (MPARD) that aims at curbing traffic congestion around the port, which has undergone expansion in recent years.

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“Road construction costs when stated on per kilometre basis vary widely due to various factors… Certain alignments require the construction of drainage structures such as bridges and box culverts that carry a significant cost,” says KeNHA in its report.

“Whether a road is situated in a rural or urban setting (also) has a major bearing on costs, with urban environments being significantly more costly.”

Other expensive Mombasa projects are the dualling of the 2.6-kilometre Magongo-Changamwe Road at Sh930.9 million per kilometre, cutting through the densely populated commercial zone near the port.

The 11.3-kilometre Mombasa-Kwa Jomvu section of the Mombasa-Miritini highway upgrade project is being undertaken at Sh532 million per kilometre.

In Nairobi, the costliest road per kilometre is the proposed Western Bypass, which will take Sh965.9 per kilometre for a total cost of Sh17 billion.

The road that runs for 17.6 kilometres between Ruaka to Gitaru will have four lanes and service roads on each side as well as four interchanges at Wangige, Kihara, Ndenderu and Ruaka.

It is meant to complete the ring of bypasses around the city, with the Northern and Eastern also in line to be dualled.

The cost of the Western Bypass, which was first revealed two years ago, caused an uproar as Kenyans compared it to that of the 12-lane Thika Road, which was built seven years ago at Sh600 per kilometre.

The 26-kilometre James Gichuru Junction-Rironi Road that is currently under construction is costing taxpayers Sh629.5 million per kilometre.

The dual carriage 28.5 kilometre Southern Bypass costs Sh659.3 per kilometre, attributed to the inclusion of 25 kilometres of service roads, five major flyovers and street lighting along the way.

Land acquisition costs have been blamed for the high cost per kilometre in Nairobi, as is that of moving utilities such as electricity lines, water and oil pipelines, fibre optic cables and sewers.

Roads that have interchanges and flyovers also cost more, KeNHA says, pointing to the three interchanges constructed in Nakuru County at Sh580.8 per kilometre — for a total of five kilometres.

Rural roads on the other hand are cheaper to construct, averaging between Sh10 million and Sh150 million per kilometre.

They benefit from lower land acquisition costs, abundance of construction materials and lower costs of relocating utilities.

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