Architecture Kenya

I recently attended a Real Estate Executive Seminar at the Strathmore Business School where the Town Clerk was the key speaker. His portrayal of the proposed elevated Uhuru Highway made it seem to me like a ‘prestige project.’ I have been skeptical about the venture ever since it came to light as nobody has made a strong case of why we need it in the first place. With the North and South by-passes in place, would we need to expand Uhuru Highway? Why can’t we simply ban its use by long distance trailers?

Nairobi requires simple solutions to its traffic menace. Link roads within the city should be completed, a case in point is the link from Ngong Road past Yaya Centre to Riverside and further on to Westlands. This, among many other cheaper measures, would de congest Uhuru Highway if properly executed. What we need are alternative roads, not a wider Uhuru Highway.

Why are we making the same mistakes that other industrialised countries have made? We are rushing head first into trouble all for the sake of prestige. Elevated highways in other cities have led to blight and are being demolished for green ways. The famous Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco is being replaced with something similar to Uhuru Highway.

An elevated highway, in this case Uhuru highway, will divide the city into two at the point where concrete meets green space. The link between Uhuru Park and town will disappear as the highway acts as an invisible wall. Underneath the elevated 6 lane highway will be a dark abode, perfect setting for thugs, drug addicts and homeless to hide and live. This is the case in most western cities.

With an unsafe road below, more people will opt to use the elevated highway. This will create traffic congestion on the road itself and the entrances to the elevated portion especially if there will be the proposed toll station.

 Elevated highways also reduce property values in the surrounding areas. New York City, Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Seoul have confronted this problem by replacing elevated highways with boulevards, saving billions of dollars and increasing real estate values and economic development on adjacent land.

 Concrete columns will also interfere with sight lines at intersections for those driving underneath the elevated highway as there will be no roundabouts just cross junctions. Accidents may also prove difficult to deal with on the elevated highway due to limited access. Nothing green will grow under an elevated highway! So much for the Green City in the sun!

    Eric Kigada

    Architect and Author

    Articles by Eric Kigada

    April 2010