(Victoria Rubadiri) The recent cases of pedestrian deaths and motor vehicle accidents along the Thika Superhighway have prompted the African Development Bank (AfDB), a major financier of the project, to blow the whistle on safety gaps on the road.
AfDB representatives took a detailed tour of the road on Friday to inspect several danger spots.
Since January this year over 50 people have lost their lives on Thika Highway, the region’s first mega thoroughfare that has also experienced a number of automobile accidents.
With about two months to go until completion of highway, AfDB Transport Engineer George Makajuma said there are a few sections that still need to be modified to ensure proper safety.
“We were sent by the President of the Bank to assess the shortcomings on the road and one thing is inadequate signage. Most accidents have been caused by poor signage,” he said.
AfDB, which injected Sh17.8 billion into the project, has been in consultation with contractors to install signage by next month.
Motorists traveling at high speeds of 100 kilometers per hour or more and pedestrians crossing recklessly have heightened the level of danger on the highway.
At least 17 footbridges have been planned or are already under construction at strategic points along the 42 kilometer stretch of road.
A pedestrian crossing Thika Road near the Kenya College of Accountancy (KCA) in Ruaraka described safety issues in the area that was once serviced by a footbridge that was subsequently demolished during construction of the Superhighway last February.
“Even if we say that guys from KCA will use the footbridge at Utalii, this place is very risky, you can get mugged. We actually jump over these barricades and a matatu comes and hits you and the cars can’t go slow it’s a highway,” she explained.
For that particular part of the road, where a number of educational institutions are clustered, a four-meter wide footpath has been planned as well as a two-meter wide cycling path to segregate non motorized traffic from the highway.
“There are about two or three foot bridges from Utalii College area coming towards the Ruaraka intersection, so that has been taken care of in the design,” Makajuma said.
Hari Ramesh Chief Resident Engineer at APEC, a consulting firm involved in the Thika Highway Improvement Project, said apart from high speeds and signage issues, the evident absence of police presence is a major reason why motorists have been able to get away with careless driving habits.
“Traffic police have to assist more, so that the public feels that there is someone watching us and if we’re caught we’ll be punished. They don’t listen when we put up the posters and distribute flyers,” he said.
He emphasized the need for motorists to understand the difference between service roads and the main carriageway or access road in the flow of traffic.
“The purpose of the carriageway is to see that Nairobi traffic volumes are quickly released. So the through traffic going to Ruiru, Juja or Thika will be moving fast from the city. Local traffic will use the service roads to connect to other artery roads,” he said.
Contractors will soon be releasing movement maps for major junctions including Limuru, Muthaiga, the Museum Hill interchange, Globe and Pangani interchange.
The Kenya National Highways Authority and the AfDB plan to aggressively run a safety awareness campaign that is currently in the works and will involve workshops with the public, at Universities along Thika Highway to begin this month.