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Is Shs9bn road repair a waste?

By Ronald Musoke

Jinja Road jam defies city planners’ latest attempt to tackle it

Once again, the 1.4km stretch of road into Kampala City from the eastern side; starting at the Immigration Offices to the Lugogo Stadium area, is enveloped in billows of dust. The road is being remodeled for the third time in six years, making it perhaps, the most expensive stretch in Uganda.

This time, it is to consume a whopping Shs9 billion to do 2.8km of road if measured from Kitgum House to the Nakawa Flyover. In 2012, it was “beautified” for about Shs700 million. Before that, during the 2007 Chogm upgrading frenzy, the same stretch was remodeled for Shs4.2 billion by Sterling Civil Engineers.   In two years’ time, according to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), the same road is scheduled to be redone again; this time as part of the Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan. What is going on? Why can’t this road be done on a long term basis?

In an interview, Dan Kitakule Alinange, UNRA’s Communications Manager told The Independentthat they plan to have eight lanes from Kitgum House up to Bweyogerere from where the Kampala-Jinja Expressway will start and continue to Jinja joining the new Nile Bridge. The tendering process is supposed to be done this year while construction should start in 2015, Alinange told The Independent.

He said designs for the same road under the Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan were being finalised to guide another comprehensive revamp of the road that is supposed to feed into the proposed Shs800 billion 77km-Kampala-Jinja Expressway expected to take off in just two years.

“What KCCA is doing is simply to rehabilitate the existing road to improve its capacity in terms of handling traffic,” Alinange said.  The Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan is a comprehensive programme that seeks to overhaul the city’s roads with the overall aim of improving transport around settlements in and around Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono Districts over the next 15 years.   Under this UNRA project the city will also get the first ever long distance dual carriage flyover from Jinja Road by-passing the city centre, crossing over the Mukwano and Port Bell Railway lines up to Kibuye—stretching over 4.7 km.  Within this programme is the Kampala Bus Rapid Transit [KBRT] that will finally see buses move along dedicated lanes across a radius of 20 km from the city centre.

Alinange says the planned eight lane road will be able to accommodate the KBRT—a World Bank funded project— with two inner lanes fully dedicated to the buses.   The KBRT as per the detailed design is expected to start in 2016 for a period of 36months. Similarly, the JICA flyover project construction is also expected to start in 2016 for a period ranging between 24-36months.

In 2010, a World Bank-sponsored study done by UK consultancy, Integrated Transport Planning recommended the adoption of the rapid bus transit system within Kampala but the project is yet to take off.

Expensive repairs

At the launch of the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) project on Oct. 3, Ugandans were made to believe that the entire road would be revamped into a first-class six lane road complete with parking amenities at some sections of the busy road.

However, The Independent’s investigations reveal that interventions will not be uniform across the entire road section; instead, the project is intended to rehabilitate a few sections of the road that have been in poor state over the last five years.

Special emphasis has been put on relaying the sections at Nakawa, the Wampewo Roundabout and improving the accident black spots at the junction near Lugogo Bypass. In addition, the section in the low lying area at Lugogo Shoprite will be redone because of its susceptibility to floods.   In total, the stretch being rehabilitated is 2.8 km long but the surface space is equivalent to three lanes and when converted into the normal two-lanes, the works stretch to 8.3 km, the KCCA engineers say.

So far, under such rehabilitation, digging, and patching up, at least Shs14 billion (approx.US$5.3 million) has been spent on the 3.5km stretch which runs from the Kitgum House roundabout to the Nakawa Flyover.

Road construction costs vary dramatically and are difficult to generalize. But for US$5.3 million, it is likely the road being patched up over and over again could be redone to a durable state.

“Why must we keep repeating these things?” asks Patrick Kayemba, an advocate of sustainable transport who also doubles as the executive director of the First African Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO).

Kayemba argues that the reason could be that our planners like operating in an adhoc manner and lack coordination. Many have asked the same questions about why all these projects are not harmonized by the city transport infrastructure planners at the Ministry of Works and Transport, UNRA and KCCA.

Jacob Byamukama, the Transport Planning and Traffic Management officer at KCCA says Jinja Road needed to be rehabilitated urgently because it has the highest traffic count anywhere in Uganda. He says Jinja Road handles between 55,000-65,000 vehicles daily.

He said although there are grand projects in the pipeline, these are not expected to be ready before 2018.

Byamukama also rejected the suggestion that there is less interaction among the city planners, arguing that he attends regular meetings of the Joint Transport Sector Working Group in the Ministry of Works.

“For instance the Kampala fly-over project by JICA is coordinated by UNRA but these are within the KCCA jurisdiction. Similarly we have been involved in consultations on the KBRT since this is a project which will utilize the road network within KCCA.”

Still, lack of coordination is sometimes apparent. Take the question of where the Jinja Expressway is supposed to begin. Is it at Kitgum House or Nakawa where UNRA’s mandate officially starts?

Eng. Andrew Kitaka, the director Engineering and Technical Services at KCCA also defended the Jinja Road project insisting that it is not a waste of tax payers’ money.

He says KCCA cannot sit and wait for the UNRA projects.

“These projects will be implemented in the next two to three years and if KCCA was to wait for them, Jinja Road would be impassable given that it is the most used link in the country with all types of traffic.

“Under these circumstances, KCCA had to rehabilitate the road in order to keep it motorable because of the importance of this road section to the capital city and the country as a whole,” Kitaka says.

“What we are doing is to restore the road and give it a good riding quality until the UNRA road projects are done. We cannot keep giving the public the excuse that we are not doing this because UNRA is going to do it.”

Kitaka adds that the UNRA projects are being packaged as Private Public Partnerships, meaning that they cannot be done in three or five years and KCCA has no assurance about them.

“A road improvement programme is necessary and inevitable if we are to achieve traffic distribution away from the already congested corridors,” he says.

Choking traffic

Getting the planning right around the eastern exit of Kampala is important because as the city population increases to about 4.5 million by 2023, the main population growth is expected in the outer ring of Kampala District and the belt along Jinja Road towards Mukono.

In October 2013, President Yoweri Museveni launched the vaunted Nakawa-Naguru Satellite City on the eastern side expected to have about 1,700 residential units, commercial premises, and shopping malls. As the population surges, more pressure will be exerted on the narrow 3.5Km stretch of Jinja Road which currently chokes with traffic almost 70% of day time.

Kampala which was originally planned for about 350,000 residents in the 1950s has always struggled to keep pace with its population. In fact by1971; the city’s population had already risen to 370,000 and was already feeling the population pressure.

Today, Kampala hosts up to three million people especially during the day but its infrastructure has never improved to match with its current population. The city sits on about 197 sq. km of land area but has 60% of Uganda’s vehicles, says Byamukama.

And although it has a 1200 km road network, (485 km is under tarmac while the remainder is murram surface), Byamukama notes that part of the reason as to why Kampala is jammed is because most car owners struggle to drive on the 280 km which KCCA says is in good motorable condition.

Researchers say the daily traffic jams that Kampala residents face daily negatively affects their productivity and the economy.

According to experts like Dr Kiggundu Amin Tamale, an urban planning expert-based at Makerere University’s Department of Architecture and Physical Planning, about 23,813 man hours are lost each day by commuters due to traffic jam and the lack of an efficient transport system.

A 2012 travel time and vehicle cost report prepared by the Ministry of Works and Transport on eight major routes in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (Entebbe, Ggaba, Mukono, Gayaza) showed that the average travel time for the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area is 2.5 minutes per km with the Ggaba route having the highest average travel time of 3.1 min/km, while the Entebbe route had the least travel time/km at 1.7min/km.

It was also found that it takes a traveler more time to enter the city than to exit with an average speed of approximately 26.3km/hr with commuters wasting about half the time to travel to their various destinations.

Private cars were found to be the least time consumers on the road, hence their being preferred by the more affluent Kampalans. But Tamale says dependence on private cars is not sustainable in the long run. Same with the current penchant for road construction/expansion as a means of reducing traffic jams in the city.

Tamale explains that since transport is derived by demand, most Kampala residents are compelled to move from the suburbs where they live and flock the Central Business District in search of facilities.

“Suppose point B is where there is a school, market, hospital or shopping mall and people want to travel from the suburbs to those places,” Tamale said, “they will have to go there at some point during the day because that is where the services are and they cannot avoid it.”

Therefore any attempt to re-organise Kampala into a livable city, according to Dr Tamale, should address guided development of self-sustaining satellite towns to de-congest the central business district, link spatial patterning to investments in preferred traffic modes and undertake comprehensive infrastructure developments. Several studies have made the same point.

Tamale proposes that KCCA concentrates on developing infrastructure in the city suburbs.  “This would be a better strategy, instead of the ‘mono-centric’ urban infrastructure lay out which forces people to travel in one direction,” he says.

Tamale says since more cars require more space which in addition puts pressure on land, emphasis should be on infrastructure geared towards reducing the need for travel.  Tamale also adds that since over 50% of the people walk to their work places, there is need for Kampala to start and support this mode of transport.

Private cars pollute more, require more road space, traffic jam and impacts positively on urban productively. Sidewalks, bicycle lanes are necessary, he says, and this is something that should be encouraged.

His idea is for Kampala to be turned into a public-transport-dependent-city as opposed to the current private car-dependent one.

The introduction of a well-regulated public transport system would not only have a positive economic impact as people stop wasting half their day in traffic jams, it is also likely to save energy and significantly enhance the city’s living quality.   According to Tamale, policies that focus on influencing change in travel behaviour should also be worked upon by introducing congestion charges and high parking fees.

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