In Summary
  • The roundabout on the Garden Estate side is so poorly designed that again large vehicles cannot negotiate it without cutting into the other lanes.
  • Road markings are an area that puts total shame on Kenyan society and a sad footnote on the level of incompetence our government officers have sunk.
  • Water and tarmac are sworn enemies. Apart from destroying the road, users are in serious danger on flooded areas.

Lots of newspaper space has recently been expended on the new Thika Road and how drivers who use it have been behaving badly.

However, a few facts about this road have been overlooked, yet they can assist us make the best use of this one of the biggest single investment in transport.

The latest news we have is that after gobbling over Sh30 billion in construction costs, the highway is taking another Sh1.1 billion supposedly in maintenance for the next one year or so.

A proposal to set up a toll station to raise funds for maintenance has even been made as if users of the road do not pay fuel levy.

The problem with this road is that it was poorly designed and this is having a big impact on maintenance costs. And for a 50-km stretch of road, the Sh33 billion construction cost was robbery.

But then that has been the trend in the construction of roads in Kenya.

Institutions such as the Architectural Association of Kenya and Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya that would ideally be in the forefront in ensuring value for money for public projects have abdicated their responsibilities and only focus on the interests of their members.

POOR DESIGN

The main issue of this road is the design. As a frequent road user, I can declare that the Thika “Superhighway”, is an unmitigated disaster.

First, a fundamental component of road construction — safety — was thrown out of the design. It is inconceivable that at this time and age any engineer can design an eight-lane road without safe passageways for pedestrians.

It is now general knowledge in the transport world that speed itself does not cause accidents, it is the stopping that does. That is why in some countries, there are roads with minimum, not maximum, speeds.

It follows therefore that should one suddenly stop to turn off the highway or join the highway from a stationary position, then one is likely to be hit by another motorist.

Consequently, all highways are connected with decelerating and accelerating lanes long enough to provide the necessary safety net. Not the Thika “Superhighway”. It is a nightmare exiting or joining the road.

At all the busy junctions such as Garden Estate, Roysambu, Githurai, Ruiru and Pangani, the evidence can be seen on the damaged barriers.

The other expected truism is that you do not create a bottleneck on a highway. But on Thika road, our engineers chose to do exactly that by coming up with four lanes from Roysambu interchange up to Breweries, squeezing them to three lanes up to GSU, then opening them up again to four all the way to town.

At the Breweries turnoff from Thika towards Garden Estate, no vehicle bigger than a saloon can make the right turn without cutting into the lane of the other vehicle. It is clear the road at this section was not completed as the reserve seems to have been grabbed.

The roundabout on the Garden Estate side is so poorly designed that again large vehicles cannot negotiate it without cutting into the other lanes.

TOTALLY CONFUSED DESIGN

And it is not that the engineers needed to go far to understand good road design. All they needed was to look at Waiyaki Way from Westlands all the way to Limuru to see how safety is incorporated in design even when faced with limited road reserve.

It is very clear that the road design did not incorporate pedestrian safety at all.

The latest speed bumps near the Shell Petrol Station in Ngara at a sharp bend are an indication of a totally confused design and afterthought. What can be guaranteed is that pedestrians will now die in large numbers at this spot while accidents involving vehicles hitting the ones in front of them will increase.

A freely available traffic engineering manual from Cornwall County Council states: “Subways or over-bridges for pedestrians…are extremely expensive and require land to be available…new footbridges or subways may be considered as part of the construction of new roads, but will rarely be appropriate solutions…”

Thika Road was designed without pedestrian crossings then an added cost brought in to construct them. This is puzzling, especially given the fact that where the main road was being raised, crossings could have come in as underpasses or subways at no extra cost and minimal maintenance.

Whereas this could seem like an accidental omission, a closer look will reveal a systematic scheme to fleece the public.

NO-MAN'S LAND

First, three footbridges — Pangani, Ruiru and Thika — empty pedestrians into no-man’s land, requiring them to cross the feeder road and the Pangani one even on the highway in order to safely reach the pedestrian walkway.

Other footbridges are completely unnecessary. The one at Pangani near the river is barely 100 metres from the one I have described above and 200 metres from the Muthaiga interchange bridge.

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