A contract for the installation of technologically advanced traffic lights at 14 junctions in the city is to be awarded by the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA).
The tender for traffic lights and a processor was announced two months ago, at which point 10 companies, including ZTE, a leading Chinese telecommunications equipment company, purchased bid documents. However, only two joint ventures put up offers of 15 million Br and 72 million Br respectively, according to a source involved in the tender who declined to be named.
ACCRA has budgeted 30 million Br for the traffic lights, according to Elizabeth Tesfaye (Eng), road assets registration and maintenance study core process leader and member of the tender evaluating committee. But she declined to talk about the bid offers made to the Authority.
The idea to upgrade the existing traffic lights in the city came after Kassahun Hailemariam, director general of the Federal Transport Authority (FTA), Fekade Haile (Eng), general manager of the AACRA, and an engineer from Nehemiah Engineering Plc, a local company established in 2002, made a trip to observe the technology in Durban, a year ago, according to Fekade. A sample traffic light was then obtained from Traffic Lights Accessories (TSA), a South African company, and installed at the La Gare junction eight months ago by Nehemiah.
Nehemiah has partnered with TSA on the current tender to supply poles, whilst TSA will be tasked with providing the LED traffic lights. The second joint venture to bid on the project is a local company, called Tiga, coupled with China Communication Services (CCS), a subsidiary of China Telecom.
AACRA has spent the last week examining the financial proposals, put forward by the two joint ventures, and is expected to announce the winner during the coming week, according to Fekade. The company that wins the bid will maintain the traffic lights for two years, said Elizabeth.
The Federal Transport Authority (FTA) has allocated a budget of 30 million Br to change the city's traffic lights within the current year. There are 30 traffic junctions in Addis Ababa, but junctions where the light railway tracks will cross the roads, such as Meskel Square, Mexico Square and Urael, will get new lights during subsequent phases, according to Fekade.
Addis Abeba currently has 67Km of road within a 100sqKm, which is minimal when compared to Nairobi, Kenya where 155Km of road can be found within a 100sqKm. In total, Addis boasts 3,558Km of road, whilst Nairobi has nearly triple that amount, at 10,750Km.
With most traffic lights in the city in poor condition, Fekade says that the city deploys over 500 traffic officers every day. The current traffic lights are programmed for a fixed period and do not consider which lines are congested or which lanes should be released first, he added. Sometimes they are deliberately turned off, he continued.
A traffic officer at the Bambis junction on Thursday afternoon can attest to the need for more traffic lights.
"I hope the technology will bring us, and the traffic in the city, relief," said assistant inspector, Berhanu Tesfaye, whilst regulating traffic flow. "Working here a full day is very tiring, yet drivers are unhappy with us, because we give priority to the longer lines."
Drivers, Fortune talked to that same day at the Urael junction, also complained about the traffic lights and traffic officers.
"I spend up to eight minutes at the traffic lights on my way home from Bole Medhanealem, or 15 minutes if I choose the Megenagna road," said Berhanu Mitiku, who was driving a private car. "Something needs to change," he added.
The new technology is expected to improve the timing problem that exists with the current traffic lights. It is also programmed to sense how many cars are at each light and manage traffic accordingly, says Elizabeth. The traffic system is to be computerised and networked with a Traffic Operation Centre that is yet to be established, Fortune has discovered.