Ugandan roads: A story of evolution
Uganda's road sector is undergoing something of a renaissance, with significant development being planned or undertaken as the country expands or improves on existing infrastructure.
The Uganda National Roads Agency has awarded a $146 million contract for the building of the Mpigi-Busega expressway in Kampala to a Chinese consortium - this follows the inability of contractor CMC di Ravenna to continue with the project due to financial difficulties.
The 23.7km highway is part of the Northern Corridor transport network which aims to connect Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan.
Another major road undergoing work is the Jinja Highway. Repair work is expected to be completed in Q1 2020. The repairs under the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) will start from the Spears Motors junction in Nakawa Division in Kampala and will include repairing pavement and asphalt surfaces, along with filling in potholes in the middle of the road and deep trenches alongside the sides of the road.
The 3.5km stretch will cost US $3.6m and the contract was awarded to Energo projects.
The new expressways
Kampala-Jinja Expressway is at procurement stage, meaning government is searching for a contractor. This follows the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, which is complete and currently in use.
For Kampala-Mpigi Expressway, the contract was awarded to a consortium of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway 19th Bureau Group Company Limited.
A number of works for other expressways are either under procurement or funds are being sought to start the projects, while others are undergoing designing.
Mr Mark Ssali, the corporate affairs manager at the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), said all is set for the big infrastructure development.
He said construction of the expressways will decongest the city and make it more accessible at cheaper and more efficient rates. "The expressways will reduce congestion and jams and therefore reduce travel time and cost. They will also stimulate trade, agricultural and industrial development, boost tourism and foster regional integration," Mr Ssali said.
He said government has already signed contracts with some construction companies but other projects are still under procurement or design.
Others are Kibuye-Busega Expressway, Busega-Mpigi Expressway, Kampala-Bombo Expressway; Kampala Outer Beltway (Ggaba-Seeta-Matugga-Wakiso-Nsangi), Kampala Flyover Construction and Road Upgrading Project.
Also in consideration are Nakasero-Northern Bypass Express Route, Kampala-Nansana-Busunju Expressway and Kampala-Bujuuko Dual Carriage.
"For Busega-Mpigi, we have signed the contract for civil works, and had an official handover of contract to the contractor. Next is mobilisation and commencement of physical works. For Kibuye-Busega, government is in discussions with potential funders and an agreement is due soon and for the Kampala-Bombo Expressway, feasibility studies and detailed designs are ongoing," Mr Ssali said.
He said for Kampala-Busunju-Hoima Expressway, UNRA is in the process of securing a consultant for feasibility studies. He said once this is complete, UNRA will move to the next stage.
He said all the planned expressways are aligned to the national plans such as those of KCCA and the National Development Plan.
While works of the Kampala Northern Bypass capacity improvement project are ongoing, Mr Ssali said the process took long because of delays caused by land acquisition. He said other projects are also on course.
"For the Kampala Southern Bypass and Kampala- Jinja Expressway, the process of securing a concessionaire under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement is in advanced stages while for Kampala Outer Beltway, feasibility studies and detailed designs have been completed. Government is sourcing a funder and this too might go the PPP way," he said.
According to Mr Ssali, the contractor for Kampala Flyover Phase One is already on site and work is ongoing while for Kampala Flyover Phase Two, government is sourcing funding and discussions are ongoing with reputed funders.
"For the Nakasero-Northern Bypass Express Route, detailed designs are complete. Government is sourcing funding," he added.
He said an Expressway Development Master Plan is being prepared to cover the whole country. The plan will be completed in the last quarter of 2020.
Mr Ssali said the construction is projected to take three to five years, depending on complexity and length of each project, and implementation will depend on available resources.
Recently, KCCA and the African Development Bank launched a plan to develop the transport infrastructure within the city and the surrounding areas.
According to the project document, traffic congestion in Kampala city is fast growing due to a combination of poor road networks, uncontrolled junctions and insufficient capacity of roads which no longer match the increasing traffic in the city.
"This congestion results into higher vehicle operating costs, long travel times and poor transport services. The overall city aesthetics and quality of life is highly compromised by the dilapidated paved roads and sidewalks, unpaved shoulders and unpaved roads which are sources of mud and dust that hover over large sections of the city," the document states.
Eng Jacob Byamukama, the KCCA Deputy Director for Engineering and Technical Services, said the plan involves constructing actual roads and other amenities along the stretches which will be used by both pedestrians and motorists.
The KCCA acting manager of transport planning and traffic management, Mr Joel Wasswa, says while expressways are being constructed to decongest the city, more has to be done to manage the traffic flow on the city roads.
He said the first option is to streamline taxi operations, which will include parking management and control of boda boda operations within the city.
"We have had to review the street parking fees to make it more efficient. At first, one would pay Shs800 for the first hour and Shs400 for every subsequent 30 minutes. But now we have increased it to Shs1,000 for the first hour and Shs800 for every extra 30 minutes. Otherwise people would be parking everywhere because it is very cheap and would not have space to maneuver," Mr Wasswa says.
He adds that the transport department plans to revive the city railway transport system to ease traffic movement within and outside the city.
"We are working with Uganda Railway Corporation to revamp the passenger service railway. The plan is to have that railway run up to Nalukolongo and Wankulukuku," he says.
Expressways and status of works
Different view. Kampala-Entebbe Expressway/Munyonyo (51km). The highway starts at Entebbe International Airport and continues to Mpala, through Akright City, Kajjansi and Kabojja ending at Busega where it joins the Kampala Northern Bypass. A spur branches off the expressway at Kajjansi to connect to Munyonyo suburb on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, about 14km from Kampala. (complete)
Kampala-Jinja Expressway (95km).
The road will comprise the Kampala-Jinja mainline (77km) and Kampala Southern Bypass (18km). The Kampala-Jinja section will start at Shoprite in Lugogo, going through Kyambogo where it will turn to Kinawataka and Kasokoso in Kira Municipality, Namanve and Mukono, passing through Lugazi and ending at the new Jinja Bridge in Njeru, Buikwe District where it joins the Jinja highway. (under procurement)
Kampala-Mpigi Expressway (37km). Comprises two sections. First section (10km) starts at Kibuye and ends at Busega (under appraisal). Second section (27km) continues from Busega through Kyengera, Nabbingo and Nsangi and ends at Mpigi where it joins Masaka-Mbarara highway. (contract awarded).
Kampala-Bombo Expressway (50km). The road starts at Wandegeya and continues north through Bwaise, Kawempe, and Matugga to end at Bombo where it joins Gulu highway in Luweero District. (at design level)
Kampala Outer Beltway (64km).The road will start from around Seeta in Mukono Town on Kampala-Jinja Expressway highway and run north to Bukerere in Mukono, turn west through Namugongo, Kira, Kasangati, Matugga, Wakiso, Buloba to Nsangi to join the Kampala-Mpigi Expressway that connects to the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway which continues through Kajjansi to Munyonyo. Traffic will then connect back to the Kampala-Jinja Expressway via Kampala Southern Bypass highway. (under design)
Kampala Flyover Project. The project is intended to reduce traffic congestion and facilitate urban transportation in the city. It will widen existing roads and junctions, walkways and drainage systems. The project will also include construction of bridges, signalization of roundabouts, and underpass construction; flyover connecting Hotel Africana junction to Kitgum House junction; flyover from Kitgum House junction to Mukwano Road and flyover linking Nsambya to Clock Tower. (contract signed and contractor on site)
Nakasero-Northern Bypass Express Route (VIP Route) starts from Nakasero State House, connects through Fairway junction to Mulago and Kalerwe to join the Northern Bypass at Bwaise, 5km from city centre. (design complete, awaits funding).
Capacity Improvement of Kampala Northern Bypass 17.5km. The road stretches from Namboole, (11km) and winds through the suburbs of Naalya, Kiwatule, Kulambiro, Kigoowa, Bukoto, Mulago, Makerere, Bwaise, Kawaala, and Namungoona, ending at Busega on Masaka highway. (under construction).
Kampala-Nansana-Busunju Expressway (56km). Starts at Namungoona roundabout on Kampala Northern Bypass and proceeds through Nansana and Kakiri in Wakiso District ending at Busunju in Mityana District where it joins Mubende highway. (procurement for design ongoing).
Kampala-Bujuuko Dual Carriage (procurement for design ongoing)
Signalisation of 31 junctions and linking them to modern Traffic Control Centre to regulate traffic (works are ongoing).
Restructuring the sector
The plan to merge or revert government agencies to parent ministries, which was drummed up about a year ago and the government said it had been agreed at Cabinet level, has been put on hold.
The plan is back on the table for a rethink by Cabinet.
The plan was approved on September 10 last year during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Museveni.
The proposed merger was part of a mega reorganisation plan aimed at, among other things, realigning functions of agencies and preventing duplication of roles and waste of public funds.
The responsibility to implement the plan was then placed under the ministry of Public Service, Mr Jim Mugunga, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, says.
“That (rationalisation) was a decision of Cabinet. It is being implemented by the Ministry of Public Service. Anything that you want to do with rationalisation, including the cost implications will be provided by the Ministry of Public Service,” Mr Mugunga said.
Asked about progress on the matter, Mr Wilson Muruli Mukasa, the minister of Public Service, said: “Some of these agencies were established by Acts of Parliament. To scrap them you need to go back to Parliament and have the laws repealed. Others have accumulated debts. You cannot just scrap them (without paying the debts). Those who will be laid off need to be paid. If you don’t pay them they will take you to court. So Cabinet is still studying the matter. Once it is done, it will come up with a report.”
Cabinet had agreed last September to only preserve Kampala Capital City Authority, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the National Medical Stores (NMS) but disband, merge or transfer up to 60 other such agencies back to parent ministries.
It was agreed, for instance, that the National Registration Services Bureau would revert to the Ministry of Justice. The Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), Uganda Road Fund (URF) and Transport Licensing Board (TLB) were to revert to the mother Ministry, Works, Transport and Communication.
Response to road damage prioritised
The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has established an emergency response unit to quickly respond to road damages caused by natural disasters.
In a press release issued on Thursday, UNRA noted that the unit will attend to occurrences of various nature on the road network.
In recent months, torrential and unexpected rains have been ravaging parts of the country, cutting off many roads and damaging some. Most significant damages have been registered in the South, West and North-Eastern parts of Uganda.
“Landslides and embankment failures have been experienced along the Fort portal- Bundibugyo Road while Busaaru-Butoogo Road in Bundibugyo district has been cut off,” reads the press statement.
According to the statement, most of the roads have been restored and are now in a motor-able state while works still ongoing on others.
UNRA has now set up strategies to address future occurrences of such nature. These include carrying out emergency interventions to fix the impassable sections of the roads within 48 hours for major wash-outs and 24 hours for smaller bottlenecks that are rendering the roads impassable.
On a long term basis, the roads authority has procured new equipment and materials like armco culverts and gabions to be able to respond to these emergencies promptly.
It has also mapped out all bottleneck areas in the country and is carrying out designs and construction of adequate drainage structures on the road network in a phased manner, to comprehensively remove the localised bottlenecks that occur during the rainy season and ensure all year round safe and efficient movement of people and goods.
UNRA has, however, advised the public to avoid and keep away from flooded sections of the roads until the floods subside.
“In the meantime, we request the public to exercise patience especially in areas that have been cut off and closed off to public transport and use alternative routes for their safety,” the statement further said.
Government has embarked on a programme to decongest Kampala city and the metropolitan area of traffic jam by constructing 10 expressways to ease traffic flow.
The project is part of the bigger traffic control plan that government is working on with the Japanese Development Agency (JICA) to signalise at least 30 city junctions to ease traffic.
The acting head of transport planning and traffic management at Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Mr Joel Wasswa, told Daily Monitor that the Japanese government offered funding and construction of a traffic control centre.
"The Japanese government through JICA is helping us establish an urban traffic control centre and also signalising about 30 junctions. That project is set to commence this year and it will see the control centre established here [KCCA offices]," Mr Wasswa said.
According to the plan, 10 expressways will be constructed in the next five years, in addition to upgrading some of the existing city roads to dual carriage ways and widening others.
During the manifesto presentation review last month, the Minister of Works and Transport, Ms Monica Ntege Azuba, said progress has been made in addressing the city traffic problems.
She said construction of the expressways would reduce the traffic burden on the current roads and ensure smooth flow of vehicles to and out of the city.
"Ahead of the elections, we promised the people of Kampala and Uganda that we would work on these projects. We are here to announce that progress has been made and Kampala-Entebbe Expressway is already done and works on the other expressways will start soon," Ms Azuba said.