Cabinet has approved the Roads (Amendment) Bill 2017 which, if passed by parliament, will repeal the obsolete Roads Act and Access to Roads Act.
Addressing the media this morning, Works and Transport minister Monica Azuba Ntege said the two existing roads laws had become "outdated and irrelevant". For instance, the Roads Act of 1949 only recognizes a national roads agency (Uganda National Roads Authority) and district administrations as the only authorities responsible for roads.
But Ntege noted that the institutional framework for managing the road network has since changed whereby the likes of Kampala Capital City Authority, municipal councils and town councils are now managing urban roads.
The sub-counties are also managing access roads while the Uganda road Fund is providing money for road maintenance. On the other hand, the Access to Roads Act only talks about how a person with land can access a public road.
The new bill, therefore, seeks to merge and align these two and come up with up-to-date provisions.
"The new law [provides for] matters related to classification of roads, road safety, storm water drainage, damage to the road and its furniture, abandonment of vehicles, provisions of pedestrian and cyclists, erection of billboards and signposts on the roads, signboards, all that was not in the old law," Azuba said of the bill that has 84 clauses.
One of the clauses provides for creation of public-private-partnerships in road construction, management and maintenance. The minister said that in the new arrangement, private players will be allowed to build roads and then recover their money through road-tolling.
"In road management, road tolling will be another way of getting in to the private sector to design and build a road and at the same time the private sector will operate that road. The toll paid will be used to pay back to the operator the finances that they have invested and maintain the road," Azuba said.
She, however, noted that for any road with a toll, there should be an alternative route for individuals who may not be able to pay the toll.
The new bill has also introduced express penalties for overloading. Currently, a driver found overloading is first taken through the long process of court, which the minister said is sometimes corrupt.
They ministry has also incorporated relevant provisions from the East African community partner states laws.
"As East Africa we are working together to have seamless flow and transport and integration and we have provided for innovative financing mechanism for improved roads," she said.
Since the previous act was passed in 1949, there has been a tremendous increase in the size of the road network, currently estimated at 144,000km. The traffic volumes have also increased from 110,000 then to about one million now.