The excitement that greeted the opening of the highway linking Kampala City and the Entebbe International Airport is justified.
The 51km journey has been a pain. Where one would ordinarily make it to Entebbe in 45 minutes, it used to take two hours or more.
When the expressway was opened June 15, Ugandans took to social media to celebrate. The highway boasts the longest bridge in the region, at 1.5 kilometres, suspended over a swamp in a show of environmental sensitivity for major construction projects.
It is also Uganda’s first toll road, from which the government hopes to raise enough cash to pay back the construction loan of $476 million from the China Exim Bank.
A few days after its commissioning, we took a journey by car, just after 8am driving from Ggaba Road and joining the expressway at Munyonyo, next to the Speke Resort Hotel.
We reached our first toll station at Kajjansi at 8.15am, driving at a 80kph. The officers manning the station had not started charging toll.
The media relations manager at Uganda National Roads Authority Allan Ssempebwa, said the Road Bill 2018 which is before Parliament is being revised to allow tolling.
“We are looking for a firm to operate the toll booths,” said Mr Ssempebwa.
The expressway, built by the China Communications Construction Company has three toll stations: Busega (six gates), Kajjansi (five gates) and Mpala (five gates).
Although it may be too soon to judge the real impact of the highway, and with sections still requiring final touches, the traffic pressure is beginning to ease on the old Entebbe Road. But pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists are not allowed to use the road because of the high speed traffic, with restricted entry and exits points.
Katerega Emmanuel a lorry driver said ever since the road was commissioned it has found it easier to deliver materials to the Entebbe International Airport where expansion works are underway.
“I used to spend over an hour from Kajjansi to the airport to transport these pavers. Now I only use 30 minutes,” said Mr Katerega.