Kampala flyover project should be urgently reviewed

Kampala flyover project should be urgently reviewed

Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) recently published an international bidding call for the Kampala Flyover Project (KFP), a large scale multimillion dollar construction plan. The project will be executed with a long term loan from Japanese Government for a repayment period of 40 years. The Flyover will be constructed from Clock Tower to Kitgum House on Jinja road above existing Mukwano road. A flyover, in some countries also known as an overpass is a high level or raised road that crosses above other lower roads mainly in cities. Usually, the major aim is to reduce congestion on city roads by creating quick movement and free flow of traffic through well-thought out and preconceived design plan of interchange and intersection on major roads and highways. If implemented KFP will be the first flyover road in Uganda.

Flyovers, when designed concurrently as part of a metropolis transport master plan remain the most common means of curbing traffic and alleviating congestion in many cities. However, on the other hand, they can exacerbate the problem when hurriedly implemented. Some African countries such as Egypt, in an effort to “westernize” their cities have needlessly copied and constructed flyover roads with some remaining idle while other projects were abandoned midway. Flyovers can change the city’s landscape and are a permanent feature or mark on a city, whose fundamentals, when ill-conceived, can have irreversible negative implications on the general urban life of a city. Some environmentalists call them “lasting scars” on a city because they can be environmentally unfriendly too. Based on this brief background therefore, Kampala doesn’t need a flyover at this time, moreover in the proposed area.

The problem of Kampala is lack of interconnectedness and poor road network planning. The proposed flyover will be like a lonely inaccessible island in the middle of the sea. We wish to categorically and unequivocally pronounce ourselves that the Kampala Flyover Project (KFP) is a misconceived idea and will not solve the problem which UNRA and KCCA are claiming it will cure. This is due to the following reasons:

1. For a flyover road to be effective, it should be located on the outskirts of a city and not in the centre as KFP is envisaged. The fly over should be able to “pick and deliver” traffic from both ends of the road. Failure to take cognisance of this, means that both end points of the flyover at Clock tower and the Oasis Mall roundabout on Yusuf Lule road will face capacity challenges because they will be “fed” by a mass vehicle transit road hence creating even more congestion at these two end points. KFP starts and ends in the city centre and doesn’t have any linking road of the same magnitude to connect to the outer part of Kampala.

2. The area where KFP is to be located is almost in the city centre with a lot of traffic hold up. If Implemented, KFP will be the first flyover project in any city that will be located right in the middle of a city. Kitgum House area where the fly over is to be located is a stone throw away from the CBD. In fact, Kitgum house is for all intents and purposes part of Kampala’s CBD. A fly over road is more efficient when the underpass roads feed it a distance away from the CBD. There is nowhere in the world where a flyover can evacuate traffic right from the CBD! Flyovers, as a matter of principle must feed and connect with ring roads around the city and cannot originate from the middle of the city or for that matter pass through the middle of the city.

3. The Consultation process for the KFP was not transparent nor was it inclusive or comprehensive. Useful ideas were left out or completely muzzled. The consultative meetings were hurriedly arranged and organisers were not willing to pay attention to any dissenting views. Participants were only required to rubberstamp the project without any input or alteration. For a project of this kin, consensus is of utmost importance. To make matters worse, information about the project is as scanty as it is not convincing. The only available information about the project is the snippets through social media. Both UNRA and KCCA have deliberately kept mum about the project. JICA, the said funders of the project are not willing to share any information apart from the total cost!

4. For the fourth time in less than ten years, JICA will work on this particular spot where KFP is being proposed on Jinja road, Kitgum House and Wampewo roundabout under the guise of Kampala Traffic improvement plan. This particular area has been “improved and redesigned” several times, each time JICA and KCCA promising better traffic flow. The unending work on this spot is a cause for worry to many keen Ugandans. A lot of resources have been spent on this particular area, and possibly the flyover may not be the last expense Ugandans are likely to incur for the same kind of work disguised, just as has been done before.

5. Most roads within Kampala city and on the outskirts are in terrible condition. It therefore makes sense to work on these roads first before we consider the flyover. The outer ring roads in Greater Kampala Metropolitan area are almost universally in sorry state. It is our considered view that these “feeder” roads are strategically more important in addressing traffic congestion than a flyover of less than 2Km in length at a whopping cost of 147 Million Dollars and not linking to any of the said roads. This amount of money would be better utilised through a prioritised plan and spending on the most critical roads that draw in and out traffic out of the city into the periphery of the city. Of what use will the Flyover serve amidst roads that are impassable around it?

6. Flyovers “kill” the spaces adjacent to them. This is the major reason why they cannot be constructed in the middle of a city. Experience shows that any businesses that are located next to the flyover will automatically relocate. They will no longer get customers. This is because, for safety reasons, people who walk on foot are not allowed near the flyover. The walking public and cyclists must therefore be kept as far away as possible from the flyover. What this means is that the area along where KFP will be located will no longer be accessible for business and will be left for motor vehicle traffic exclusively.

Furthermore, flyovers require a lot of space and tend to be popular with cities that have large expanse of land, which is preferably flat and not in a congested and hilly city such Kampala. There is no doubt that Kampala is chocking on road traffic. Because of this, any proposed measure that is seen to provide a solution is a welcome relief to many city dwellers that are almost becoming helpless. Various studies have indicated that the problem is getting worse by the day. The solution to traffic flow improvement in Kampala does not depend on short term goals and plans. A lot of resources have been wasted on adhoc interventions before which have turned out to be not only expensive but also destructive and wasteful. Transportation planning involves engaging in elaborate and sometimes lengthy planning. Anything short of this compounds the problem further. On face value, KFP may appear to be a good project. However, because of the above reasons and others which we are unable to present due to lack of space, we strongly advise government and its partners to reconsider its position and call for complete halt of the project. It is in our own best interest as a country. **The writer the Executive Director of Uganda Road Sector Support Initiative (URSSI)