By: LABAN ROBERT
Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho has vowed to push for the construction of a bridge connecting Mombasa Island to the South Coast at the Likoni crossing channel to help ease regular traffic crises due to faulty ferries.
Addressing journalists on the side-lines of the three-day Sixth International Asia-Africa Seminar for Urban Development at Serena Beach Resort on Tuesday, Mr Joho said the economy and lives of many people are at risk if nothing is done urgently.
Mr Joho said there is nothing that will stop the county from partnering with willing development donors in ending the human and vehicle traffic crises that constantly hit the channel when five ferries break down.
“A bridge must be done. We want to do this in the fastest way possible.
“I want to ask the national government and its infrastructural agencies to support this noble initiative,” he said.
Governor Joho added: “If we feel there is a stumbling block somewhere, the county will go ahead and construct it in whichever way, even if it means engaging directly with friends of goodwill.”
At least 300,000 people and 6,000 vehicles cross the channel daily.
It is the only way connecting Mombasa Island to the South Coast.
JICA WILLING TO HELP
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is one of the partners who have shown willingness in drawing the bridge plan.
“There are several proposals we are looking at over the channel.
“A senior representative of JICA has confirmed to me they have set aside some money for a detailed feasibility study. We are talking to a few other people.
“There is nothing that is going to stop us from implementing the project,” he said.
Without revealing other partners who have shown interest in the project, the governor said the welfare of the people comes first and the county will go for anyone ready to offer the solution in the fastest way possible.
Poor maintenance of the “old and tired” ferries operating at the channel regularly leads to human and vehicle traffic.
On Thursday morning last week, two ferries were grounded, leaving only MV Likoni, whose one prow is faulty, and MV Kwale in operation.
MV Harambee, one of the other two vessels, stalled on a ramp on the Mombasa Island side while the MV Nyayo’s one engine developed a mechanical problem, forcing it to be taken for quick maintenance, thus worsening the situation.
However, Kenya Ferry Services has attributed the woes to lack of enough ferries and overworking of other vessels said to have been in operation for more than 25 years.
LACK OF FINANCES
The management has also been complaining of lack of finances and the failure of “qualified standards” for maintenance of vessel which has led to recurrent mechanical breakdowns.
Many people have on several occasions missed flights at the Moi International Airport due to delays caused by the ferry problems.
Hoteliers in the South Coast have complained that tourists were shunning them because of the unreliable crossing channel.
JICA representative in Kenya Koji Noda said the Japanese government is ready to partner in the initiative just like it did in the construction of Mtwapa and Nyali bridges.
“JICA is starting a feasibility study early next year. JICA understands the necessity of the bridge. Constructing Likoni bridge will be a symbol for Mombasa like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA,” he said.
Golden Gate Bridge is 1.6 kilometres wide and 4.8 kilometres long, joining San Francisco to Marin County over the Pacific Ocean.
The Likoni channel is about 500 metres wide.