Arusha — THERE is a joke making rounds in Arusha which says should the City Fathers feel generous enough to honour the president of Kenya with a road then the main Sokoine Street will fit in very well.
That is because before 1984, Sokoine Road used to be called 'Uhuru Road,' but after the former prime minister died in a road accident nearly 30 years ago, the city's main corridor was given the name of "Sokoine," mainly because this is the road on which the late premier's body was driven when being transported to his Monduli home for burial.
Tanzania has this tendency of honouring foreigners at the expense of locals that is why the former "Nyerere Road" in Arusha was unceremoniously changed to become "Nelson Mandela Road," while the "Ocean Road" in Dar-es-salaam city became "Barrack Obama" road; it thus left for "Sokoine Road" to revert back to "Uhuru Road" now.
For years Sokoine has remained the only main city centre's road carpeting the central business district from Nairobi Villa corner, all the way to the Clock-Tower and circumnavigating this legendary roundabout junction believed to be the central point of the African continent.
Sokoine road connects directly to the Dodoma Road in the Southern direction and to the former Old Moshi (then Nyerere and now Nelson Mandela) road in the North- Eastern and together they form part of the Great North road linking Cape-Town (South Africa) and Cairo (Egypt). Recently the Arusha City Directress Ms Sipora Liana announced plans to make Sokoine Road a "One-way" street in the proposed plan to re-structure the urban centre whose rather dated infrastructure was designed in the early 60's.
The former "Uhuru Road" apparently did well as the main street in those days when the town's population was just around 20,000, but in 2013 when Arusha is already a city of 500,000 permanent residents with additional 200,000 daily visitors this main street is getting extremely overwhelmed now.
Due to such concerns therefore there are serious plans to make the busy, main Sokoine Road in Arusha, to become a one way street starting from Clock-Tower roundabout Junction all the way to the Meru Post Office area.
"Starting from the Arusha Hotel, vehicles using the Sokoine (Uhuru) Road will only be traveling one way towards Meru Post Office and then join the main Dodoma road there," said the Arusha City Directress Ms Sipora Liana while explaining the proposed roll-out plan for the new urban planning.
According to Ms Liana, the Makongoro road lying parallel to Sokoine but on the other side of the city centre will also be made a one-way street and it will be channeling traffic from Wachagga Road, via the Central Bus Station and Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium, through to Mwenge Junction in Kaloleni, the Regional Police Headquarters all the way to the City Council Premises where it will join Boma road and again divert towards the Clock Tower.
Those are initial strategies to de-congest the city centre as the council meanwhile also works towards constructing by-pass roads around the urban centre.
The City Directress explained that the move will be taken in effort to curb traffic jams in the city which suffers very few roads and streets in the backdrop of increasing number of people and cars in the urban precinct.
The 2012 National Population Census, whose results were tabled early this year, indicates that the city's night population was around 500,000 but during the day, additional 200,000 people from the surrounding districts, regions and even neighbouring country move within and around Arusha boosting the city residents' population to nearly a million.
The other steps being taken to combat congestions in the city centre is banning large commercial trucks from venturing within the central business district and reviewing licences for the town passenger commuter vans that will be expected to embark on longer routes as opposed to current arrangements that the vans just go round city centre and mostly use Sokoine road leaving other streets out of service.
"Town buses from say Ngaramtoni will no longer stop in town but expected to proceed all the way to Njiro and vice-versa. Those from Monduli will also proceed to as far as Usa-River and those from Tengeru will be required to travel up to Ngaramtoni or Mbauda," said Ms Liana.
Arusha city has more than 100 commuter vans (Toyota Hiaces and Nissan Urvans) each with capacity to carry between 12 and 20 passengers. Future plans include eliminating these small carriers and replace them with larger mini-buses such as Toyota Coasters, Isuzu Journeys and Nissan Civillians that can pick up to 35 passengers in single trip.
For obsevers however, the council is forgetting one crucial factor; the two main produce markets (the central and Kilombero markets) are all located within the town centre and along the main Sokoine road and these contribute in congesting the town with traffic as well as pedestrians.