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Sh18.4bn road in Ukambani completed ahead of time
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|Sh18.4bn road in Ukambani completed ahead of time by Kenyans247(1): Fri 25, December, 2020 09:16am|
Residents of Kitui and Makueni counties have a reason to smile this Christmas after a key road in the region was completed three months ahead of time.
The completion of 192-kilometre Kibwezi-Kitui-Kabati-Migwani road is considered a major milestone in the region because it has catalysed an economic windfall not only on the ease of doing business but also due to a significant increase in value for land, among other benefits.
The Sh18.4 billion road project which cuts across eight constituencies in the two counties, starts in Kibwezi town at the junction with the Nairobi-Mombasa highway and runs in a northward direction via Ikutha, Mutomo, Kitui, Kabati and ends in Migwani town in Mwingi West.
It forms part of the larger Mombasa-Addis Ababa Transport Corridor that links the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway (A8) in Kibwezi town and the Nairobi-Addis Ababa Highway (A2) in Isiolo town — an international highway that holds the key to unlocking the economic potential of Ukambani region.
According to a progress report by Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) seen by the Nation, the new road provides an alternative shorter route from Mombasa to Moyale and ultimately to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
Alternative route from port
“The road offers an alternative route from the port of Mombasa to Mt Kenya region and Ethiopia hence decongesting the Nairobi-Mombasa highway and improving the economic competitiveness of Ukambani counties,” reads the report.
Despite the hard economic times, residents consider the road project, whose construction was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in December 2016, a perfect Christmas gift because it is the first major infrastructure project in the two counties since independence.
For instance, in Kitui South residents say it is through this project that the constituency got its first inch of tarmacked road since 1963, which has now connected it to the outside world.
Until this section of the international highway was constructed, the constituency was perhaps the only one in the country which did not have any tarmacked road, and residents had waited for 57 years to see one.
Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai said the road brings an end to the untold traveling nightmares residents endured for decades, especially during rainy seasons. They will now enjoy faster movement of goods and services, she said, adding that the road will unlock the economic potential of the region.
Lawyer Mwengi Mutuse, a resident of Kibwezi West, said in the past, driving from Kitui to Kibwezi was a harrowing experience which took more than four hours, and even moree during rainy seasons.
Delivered on time
“This project was Jubilee government’s number one pledge to the Kamba community and we’re grateful to President Kenyatta for not only keeping his campaign pledge to tarmac the road but also ensuring it is delivered on time,” said Mr Mutuse.
The completion comes two weeks after President Kenyatta hosted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the launch of the one-stop border post along the border between Ethiopia and Kenya in Moyale, which will ease immigration and customs clearance.
According to SinoHydro Corporation Chief Engineer Zeng Yun, the tarmacking component of the Kibwezi -Kitui road was supposed to be completed in March 2021.
Speaking during a brief ceremony he hosted for Sinohydro staff to celebrate the completion of a bypass in Kitui town designed to ensure that existing businesses are not affected by the project, Mr Zeng said he was happy to deliver the project ahead of schedule.
“Despite the many challenges we faced including delays in land compensations and disruptions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw some Chinese staff put in isolation, the 192-kilometre stretch is now fully open for public use,” Mr Zeng told the Nation.
However, the project engineer said the Chinese contractor will now focus on completing an inter-change at the Kibwezi junction and another one in Syongila junction, which were delayed by land acquisition challenges.
“The remaining tasks are auxiliary works to support the main infrastructure including road signage, guard rails, parking bays and social amenities,” said Mr Zeng moments after toasting champagne to mark the flow of traffic.
More domestic revenue
Kitui County expects to generate an additional Sh400 million domestic revenue annually from parking fees for trucks and taxes from increased trade.
According to Mr Jacob Kakundi, the County Executive for Lands and Infrastructure, the road has boosted investor confidence, increased land prices and suddenly turned Kitui into a fast-growing transit town.
Mr Kakundi revealed that the county has provided ten acres of land for construction of a modern truck parking bay that will accommodate an average of 300 trucks in a day.
“Other than parking revenue to the county, this facility will create jobs for youths and trade opportunities for people interested in food business, accommodation, petrol stations, supermarkets and even mechanics,” said the CEC.
He explained that the upsurge in business opportunities directly associated with the new road is evident with the recent licensing by the county government of more than 15 matatu saccos plying the route.
Faster movement of goods
This, Mr Kakundi said, has ensured faster and efficient movement of goods and services, especially the transportation of agricultural produce at affordable rates.
To cope with the increased traffic, the county is expanding and improving its existing two bus parks, improving the town’s water supply and expanding the county referral hospital’s bed capacity with an amenity wing that will have an emergency ward to cater for accident victims.
Mwingi West MP Charles Nguna urged the government to ensure the road is linked with the Thika-Garissa highway at the Mbondoni junction in the next phase of planned works for the northern corridor.
President Kenyatta is expected to officially launch the project next month.
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