Kenya: Relief for Travellers as Nakuru Road Interchanges End Traffic Jams

Cruising through the section between Free Area and Nakuru town is an absorbing experience.

The spanking new tarmac, juxtaposed with the yellow markings and the scenic view of Nakuru town as well as its outskirts is breath-taking.

The newly built multi-million shillings Kunste interchange is both an engineering marvel and a breath-taking stretch along the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

It has wowed many motorists in Nakuru as it provides a scenic view of the town.

Looking at it during the day, one must acknowledge that it is a masterpiece.

The interchange and another one at the Njoro turnoff along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway have completely spruced up the face of Nakuru town as it seeks to acquire a city status. The interchanges have also eased the traffic load along the busy highway.

A similar interchange is also complete at the Mau Summit-Kericho turnoff, along the same highway.

Reduce traffic snarl-ups

The construction of the Sh2.7 billion projects was funded by the World Bank and supervised by Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA.)

According to KeNHA, the interchanges that were built by the China Railways Engineering Group were meant to reduce traffic snarl-ups along the route and also reduce transport costs.

"The projects were part of the authority's activities aimed at improving the state of highways in the country. They were also meant to give residents, business people and travellers a sigh of relief from years of perennial traffic gridlocks along the busy highway," said KeNHA's Assistant Director for Corporate Communications Charles Njogu.

"The projects are a boost to requisite development stimulus through reduced transport costs and travel times, reductions in vehicle operating costs and increased speeds," he added.

Reduce traffic jams

The interchanges along the Northern Corridor are part of the Jubilee administration's vision 2030 key projects aimed at helping to cut the hours wasted in traffic on most roads in the country.

Motorists along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway have frequently blamed KeNHA for the frequent traffic jams along the road.

Traffic snarl-ups, sometimes stretching for almost five kilometres on both sides of the highway, are a common phenomenon, often forcing motorists to use alternative routes.

For instance, private cars, public service vehicles and even heavy commercials are forced to divert from the highway to avoid heavy traffic jams on the Nakuru-Nairobi route.

Sigh of relief

But the interchanges have now provided a sigh of relief to travellers and motorists.

The Kunste interchange at the Nyahururu turnoff comprises of an overpass on the main highway and a roundabout underneath it to allow movement of traffic in and out of the road.

The carriageway is lifted with reinforced earth for about 1.4 kilometres.

The Njoro turnoff has a trumpet-like interchange that extends for about one kilometre and a four-span bridge over the main road.

The interchanges have given residents, business people and travellers a sigh of relief from years of traffic snarl-ups that sometimes take hours to clear.

Traders upbeat

The Nakuru County business community is upbeat that the interchanges will greatly support and boost regional integration and economic development.

Led by their spokesman Shadrack Koskei, they have applauded the move by KeNHA, saying it has uplifted the region's economy.

"These projects have spruced Nakuru town and improved traffic flow at the Njoro and Nyahururu turnoffs. They have facilitated transport of farm inputs, finished products and supplies to and from Nakuru," said Mr Koskei.

The interchanges have boosted transportation of farm produce from Nyahururu and the agricultural areas of Nakuru including Njoro and Molo.

Nyahururu is known for horticulture, floriculture and vegetable farming while parts of Nakuru County including Njoro, Molo, Mau Narok, Kuresoi North and South areas produce dairy products, potatoes and vegetables.

Boost for tourism

Nakuru County Trade and Tourism Executive Raymond Komen said the infrastructure projects will boost the number of tourists coming to Nakuru due to reduced traffic jams.

"The projects are definitely game changers. This is a great achievement by the national government. Tourists and travellers going to Nakuru now spend less time to their destinations compared to earlier when the journey took more hours," he said.

Motorists from Bahati, Subukia, Solai and Nyahururu now use the Section 58 road avoiding the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, which has often delayed passengers heading to Nakuru town due to traffic jams caused by trucks.

Motorists including taxi drivers and travellers have lauded the infrastructural development.

"Before the construction of the Kunste interchange, I would be stuck in traffic from Nakuru town to my home in Bahati, a distance of about six kilometres, for two hours but now I take about 20minutes,"said Mr John Maina, a trader.

Attract investors

Property owners are also happy with the revamped road network, saying this will attract investors.

The government has also refurbished at least 15 roads in Nakuru town ahead of the town's upgrading to a city.

The expansion of the road network has also seen the central business district expanded with more traders and investors putting up high-rise buildings along the refurbished roads.

With the recent construction of the interchanges, the improved road network will also boost the movement of traffic in the town, considered the capital of Rift Valley.

And with the new developments, Nakuru is experiencing growth and influx of industrial investments including the recent entry of Simba Cement factory in Salgaa along the Nakuru-Eldoret Highway.

Redesign Nakuru town

Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the county government had started an ambitious bid to redesign Nakuru town in a masterplan that seeks to improve its face and decongest the town as it inches closer to city status.

With the proposal to attain city status already before the Senate Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations, Governor Lee Kinyanjui's administration has already moved to ensure there is order in the town.

A study by IBM Corporation in 2012 revealed that Kenya loses Sh50 million in a day due to time wasted on the roads during traffic jams.

Motorists, especially along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway, have in the past blamed KeNHA for the frequent traffic jams along the road.

Construction of the interchanges started in 2016 and they were completed early 2019.

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