The government has signed a Sh17.9 billion deal with a Chinese firm for the construction of a 453-kilometre Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) road project network.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) Director General, Peter Mundinia and the General Manager China Communication Construction Company Limited signed the tender award agreement in Nairobi on Monday, paving way for the construction work which is estimated to take 24 months.
According to Kenha, the 453-kilometre project will comprise the 257-kilometre section of the Lamu-Ijara-Garissa (Lapsset Corridor) road and a further 113-kilometre Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga road.
It also entails the construction of another 83-kilometre Ijara-Sangailu-Hulugho road.
KeNHA assistant director and head of communications, Charles Njogu said that the construction of the 114-kilometre Lamu-Witu-Garsen road which has been ongoing in the area for the past four years is substantially complete.
The Lamu-Witu-Garsen road project is being undertaken by the H-Young Company in collaboration with GIBB Africa Limited having won the Sh 10.8 billion tender in 2017.
The project is anticipated to open the region for the operationalization of the Lamu Port starting June this year.
"We have signed the deal to have three key roads, including Lamu-Ijara-Garissa, Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga and Ijara-Sangailu-Hulugho constructed within two years," said Mr Njogu.
He said, "The Lamu-Witu-Garsen road is substantially complete with the contractor undertaking final works, including road markings, final drainage works and road signage."
Once completed, the road projects will have a significant impact in the Northern Kenya corridor, especially with the Lamu Port in place.
The road project is expected promote security, socio-economic activities, and provision of accessibility from the wider national road network, to the proposed Lamu port and resort cities, major towns, and county administrative centres.
Moreover, the roads will provide enhancement of peace and security in the Northern frontier region. The infrastructure is also expected to place Kenya's Lamu Port as a competitive port in the region, as large vessels will now be able to dock for reconsolidation of cargo in and out of the coastline, to various destinations.
"Once completed, the Lamu-Ijara-Garissa road for instance, will form a permanent route for ferrying goods along the Northern Corridor all the way up to Southern Ethiopia. It will then connect with the Garissa-Moyale road that is already tarmacked," Lamu Port regional manager Salim Bunu said.
Locals interviewed by the Nation in Lamu welcomed the move to construct roads such as the Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga, which have since time immemorial been in dilapidated state.
Ms Firdaus Sharif, a resident of Kiunga in Lamu East said they have on many occasions been forced to rely on the costly water transport due to the bad state of the road.
"We are happy to hear that the Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga road will be constructed. We are tired of using water transport with the costly boat fares. Once the road is constructed, transport will be easier and cheaper," said Ms Sharif.
Ali Gubo, an elder from the Boni minority community said once constructed, the road which passes through the terror prone Boni forest will generally improve security in their villages.