Kenya is seeking funds from the United States (US) for the expansion of the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway into a dual carriageway.
The move represents a break with the government’s tradition of raising money for high-profile projects from China.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) said it has opened talks with America’s export-import (Exim) bank for the financing of the multibillion-shilling project.
“Our target is to complete the whole stretch by 2022,” KeNHA director-general Peter Mundinia said during an Infrastructure summit at State House, Nairobi.
The 485-kilometre highway is crucial for trade in the region since it connects the Mombasa port to hinterland markets, including landlocked Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
But it has remained a single-carriage way for long despite increased use by thousands of buses and trucks ferrying goods and people daily, making it uncompetitive.
Ferried by road
A study by IBM Corporation says Kenya loses in excess of Sh50 million a day in wasted man hours due to traffic snarl-ups.
Over 90 per cent of goods landing at Mombasa port are ferried by road and the remaining by railway, underlining the importance of the highway in the face of growing cargo.
The Treasury last year picked a consortium led by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to offer transaction advisory for the expansion.
Eng Mundinia said the project will be financed under the public-private partnership model but declined to offer the cost estimates and cash sought from the US.
The KeNHA also plans to remove all bumps on Thika Road to make it an express way.
The agency is moving to construct 13 more footbridges to be added to the current 18 on the road to ease traffic jams at various spots with bumps.
The project is set to cost Sh650 million, based on the estimated Sh50 million cost of each footbridge, according to KeNHA.
Several sections along the highway have bumps and rumble strips meant to slow down traffic to allow for pedestrians to cross.
Some of the crossing spots yet to get footbridges, such as near Survey of Kenya, have become notorious for snarl-ups during morning and evening rush hours.