Outrage as contractor abandons Sh1 billion Nzoia bridge

The new Nzoia bridge that has been abandoned by the contractor following delays in payment. Kenya Highways Authority (KENHA) currently is rehabilitating the old bridge that has outlived the lifespan.

Photo credit: Kassim Adinasi | Nation Media Group.

A contractor building a bridge over the Nzoia River has abandoned the site, citing delays in payment from the government, officials have said.

The bridge is meant to replace an old one that is more than 80 years old.

“There were delays in payment by the employer. This made the contractor vacate the site. However, plans are underway to ensure that anytime from now until January the work would [restart],” the director of the Presidential Delivery Unit, Jared Buoga, told the Nation by phone.

He added: “The work is 77 percent complete. Currently, the Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) is rehabilitating the old bridge to be safe for use as construction of the new bridge goes on.”

He said the bridge was supposed to be completed earlier this year, urging the public to be patient and “allow the contractor and Kenha to complete works on the two bridges”.

The old bridge links Ugenya and Ugunja sub-counties and its closure for two weeks has paralysed vehicle and human movement.

Cracks and potholes began forming on the bridge as the level of the River Nzoia increased after heavy rains one week ago.

Past sell by date

With its rusted rails and weakened pillars, residents expressed fears that it shakes whenever heavy trucks pass on it and that it is just a matter of time before it collapses.

“The engineers who built the bridge in 1924 estimated it would last 80 years before needing replacement. Today, we are counting 98 years, which means it has outlived its lifespan. This is dangerous and we are no longer safe with this bridge,” said Mr Joseph Ong’ang’a, from Ukwala.

For over 50 years, the bridge served motorists travelling to Uganda before the Busia-Kisumu highway was built.

“This was the main highway that joined Kenya and Uganda for over 50 years. The bridge has been forgotten simply because the route was changed,” Mr Ong’ang’a added.

Ms Pamela Omondi, a business operator in Ukwala, said that movement is affected when it rains heavily and water flows over the bridge.

She also lamented that the River Nzoia has become unpredictable and can burst banks anytime without warning.

“Some years back, using rain patterns, we could accurately predict whether the Nzoia would burst its banks. Today we cannot, because the patterns have changed,” she said.

“You can see the level of the water is down now, but when it rains in the highlands, it can swell anytime without rain on the lower sides.”

The local community has urged the government to complete the new bridge.

Before the August 9 polls, construction continued and teams from the Presidential Delivery Unit frequented the site. But work slowed down after the elections.

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