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Nairobi’s new roads bring residents joy and pain

The Southern Ring Road at Kileleshwa area in Nairobi. The link roads were commissioned in 2011 and were a joint project by the Kenyan and Japanese governments. The link roads connect Ngong Road to James Gichuru

The Southern Ring Road at Kileleshwa area in Nairobi. The link roads were commissioned in 2011 and were a joint project by the Kenyan and Japanese governments. The link roads connect Ngong Road to James Gichuru

Three years ago, Timothy Kimani, 27, bought a small plot in Ruiru near an area marked out for the construction of the Eastern By-pass.

The investment was Sh80,000 but has today appreciated to Sh700,000, according to the most recent valuation. He is a happy man.

“I will continue holding onto the land and develop it as the city expands towards that area,” he said.

The Eastern by-pass has also made the daily commute from Nyayo Estate Embakasi to Westlands, easier for Steve Muiga, an employee of a private firm.

Previously, it took him almost three hours to make the same journey that has more than halved to about an hour going through the by-pass.

The two are some of the residents of Nairobi, and its environs who have benefited from the ongoing construction of roads, by-passes and link roads.

The construction has opened up new areas, especially along the new roads, easing daily commute and raising the value of real estate in the area.

An eighth of an acre plot located along the Eastern By-pass, which runs from Mombasa Road through Njiru, Thika Road onwards, was priced at an average of Sh250,000 but has since shot up to Sh1 million or more with the opening of the road.

“The Thika Road expansion is also proving a powerful pull for property developers and established retail entrepreneurs, eager to take advantage of untapped demand,” said Actis Managing Director Michael Turner, in an opinion piece carried in the Business Daily.

Actis is investing Sh21.6 billion in a new development along Thika Road, dubbed Garden City, that is expected to be the biggest shopping complex in East Africa.

The new roads are a sigh of relief for city residents as they ease traffic and with the by-passes and link roads, as the names suggest, avoid the city centre traffic.

“Improved access and mobility has quickly fostered a thriving informal sector in the satellite towns of Ruaraka, Kasarani, Githurai, Ruiru and Thika. On a broader scale, increased activity has been reported between Nairobi and the Central and Eastern corridors; strengthening trade flows in and out of the capital,” said Turner.

Grace Mumbi, a resident of Langata, is eager to see the Southern By-pass completed.

She plans to enrol her daughter in a school in Karen, near Lenana School, mid next year. The commute from her home to the school via the by-pass will only take five minutes, unlike the lengthy route via Bomas of Kenya, which takes over half an hour.

But not everyone is celebrating the new roads. Residents of exclusive neighbourhoods have seen the new network erected right next to their fences, leaving their homes exposed to passers-by and motorists.

Along the Southern By-pass, parts of the Karen suburb, which were previously obscured from the public by the forest and vegetation around it, is now bare and exposed to the scrutinising eye of all and sundry.

Runda estate, which has always enjoyed the perks of being a gated community, now has a large section of the Northern By-pass, cutting through it.

In 2011, some Runda residents had their property worth millions of shillings demolished for being built on road reserves. Some residents of Cycad Mimosa, in Runda, have been issued with notices of demolition to pave the way for 25 kilometres of the Northern By-pass. They have taken the matter to court.

On May 22, 2013, Compar Investment Limited was served with a 30-day notice to demolish its complex that sits at the junction of Mombasa Road and Airport North Road.

Compar was to bring down the building valued at over Sh600 million on the grounds that it occupied a road reserve.

The firm moved to court questioning the legality of the move. The case has not been concluded.

Compar is one of the many investors, individuals and corporations whose properties are  facing demolition to pave the way for new roads and railway infrastructure.
The construction phase also comes with its fair share of hurdles.

Mary Kamau, a banking professional has been a long-term resident of Ong’ata Rongai until recently. Construction of the Southern Bypass and the expansion of Langata Road had made her daily commute a nightmare.

“I was spending more than four hours to and from work daily. It did not make economic sense for me to spend all that fuel and time on the road,” she says. She and her family are now relocating to Ruiru to get away from the daily commute headache.

“Land prices there are up, but they are not unaffordable yet,” she says.

The new roads have come in with new business opportunities for developers. Along the Southern Bypass, opposite the Carnivore Restaurant, the bare arid area that had been a roaming ground for cattle and wild animals is now host to upcoming high-rise apartment blocks and estates. The developers are out to cash in on the availability of an access route to the area.

The 30-kilometre dual carriageway extends from Park Side Towers on Mombasa road through the edge of the national park, Langata South Estate, Ngong Road, Dagoretti, Gitaru and Thogoto in Kiambu before joining Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

The road is designed as a dual carriageway with four lanes and will cover 28.6km with 12km slip roads and 8.5km service roads.

Link roads

Plans are under way to have a private contractor manage the tolling services and maintain the dual carriageway under a public private partnership (PPP) arrangement.

Motorists using Nairobi’s Southern by-pass will be charged pay-for-use fees – the first such road in Kenya.

Rents in the areas near the new roads have also been rising. Two years ago when Kevin Kithinji moved into his apartment block next to the bypass, the rent was Sh26,000 for a two bedroomed apartment. It has since risen to Sh35,000.

In 2011, former president Mwai Kibaki commissioned the link roads running from Ngong Road through to Kilimani, Kileleshwa and Mzima Sprint.

The roads, built by the Japanese, have opened up the area, changing the landscape and inflating rents.

Rent for a two-bedroomed apartment now ranges between Sh40,000 and Sh180,000 for the new ones. The link roads stretch from Ngong Road to James Gichuru through Kileleshwa and from Gitanga Road to Waiyaki way, also through Kileleshwa, courtesy of a Sh1.9 billion grant by the Japanese government.

The Thika Superhighway has seen an increase in the number of malls and shops with brand names like Clarks, Sony, Samsung and the Deacons stores as well as supermarkets like Nakumatt and Naivas opening in the area.

Several years ago, the sleepy town of Ruaka was best known for the menace of crime and drugs. The small potholed road that led from the city to what was then considered to be the country side has now opened up.

The area is not only attracting discerning investors but also young cosmopolitan professionals working with UN agencies and multi-national firms.

Now, on entry into the bustling town, the traces of the small village are almost non-existent.

-Business daily

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