Addis Abeba City Roads Authority (AACRA) has selected an option for the design of a road upgrade, which has been on hold for seven years.
The decision was made during a meeting on December 8, 2015, at Kings Hotel. Participants included representatives of AACRA; United Consulting Engineers (UNICON), which made the first design seven years ago; other consultants, including those from Addis Abeba University; Transport & Parking Management Office, wereda and district administrators. Professionals from the bus rapid transit (BRT) project at the Addis Abeba Transport Bureau were also present.
UNICON was awarded the contract for the design of a two-kilometre Menelik Square Abune Petros–Mesalemya–Kolfe roundabout road in the Asra Sement Mazoriya area in 2008. Its General Manager, Tesfaye Workineh told Fortune that UNICON had submitted its design on time.
Seven years later, the job had not even begun, but the delay was deliberate.
The Authority, most of whose independent projects are roads less than three kilometers long, has undertaken several projects in the past seven years, its General Manager Fekadu Haile, said. The delay to implement the UNICON project was a matter of reprioritization as AACRA has limited manpower, although it did not have budgetary issues, according to the General Manager. However, after considering that the railway project would demolish the road and would leave ongoing construction in shambles, it was decided to hold off on the road, although the initial plan was to construct it before the track for the light rail transit was constructed.
“This project was not that big a problem compared to other projects we prioritized more. Now we are ready both in manpower and budget,” Fekadu said.
Now that the Authority wants to work on the project, so much has changed on the ground, said Tesfaye, adding that UNICON is now required to come up with another design. Both AACRA and UNICON declined to say if another contract had been signed for the latest design. However, UNICON submitted three options to approach the new design it has to deliver. The meeting selected one.
The project involves expansion of the road, including three roads diverging from the Kolfe roundabout, one on the Jimma route, another leading to Gojam and a third to Wingate. The three options were all concerned with the design to be adopted at the roundabout.
When the consultant presented its study with the three design options, it was noted that it had ignored the bus rapid transit (BRT) project. Meteku Asmare, head of the BRT project in the Transport Bureau mentioned at the meeting that his office was working on seven BRT corridor construction projects, including the one along the road under design.
“It is a recent study that came after our design and we were not properly informed,” said Hailu Mekonnen (Eng.), of UNICON, explaining the omission.
Fekadu, however, rejected this as an excuse, saying that the BRT project has been there for six to seven years. The consultant was told at the meeting to consider the BRT in the new design it is to produce.
The design, which includes a 40m expansion, will go further into new territory on either side, creating additional right of way issues, Hailu said at the meeting. UNICON will also change the design of the frontage roads to accommodate the BRT corridor.
The selected option under which UNICON will make the new design will have a construction cost of 147 million Br. It involves no overpass, but it will have an underpass at the Kolfe roundabout. All roads leading to the roundabout will have two-way, two-lane roads. The slope of the steep road from the Wingate will also be reduced to four per cent. This measure will be taken in response to complaints that vehicles travelling along that road did not see the roundabout until they were too close, which increased the risk of accidents.
Fekadu urged the consultant to make the underpass in the accepted design option, visible to traffic.
Among the advantages of this road are maintaining the topography of the area from Messalemya to Kolfe; and construction of a retaining wall that is of shorter length than the existing one.
Demerits include reduced ease of access to the right lanes because of the absence of an overpass. The road is also congested and has no walkway.
One of the two rejected options would entail a construction cost of 205 million Br. The steep road would have a 6.4pc slope. A foot bridge on the Wingate side would have to be demolished altogether and a stretch of the ring road section would be demolished and reconstructed. But the advantage of that option was that it would reduce traffic jams.
The preferred option includes an underpass of two lanes, each having seven metres width, and three-lane frontage roads that are separated by island.
The other rejected option was to simply boost the road signs and traffic signals for vehicles and pedestrians at the roundabout.
UNICON said during the meeting that traffic flow of vehicles varied from 7,000 near Kolfe roundabout to 4,000 at the Kolfe bridge. Forty-seven per cent of this traffic comprises mini and middle sized buses. The study also estimates the pedestrian volume per hour to be more than 400 at the locations specified.
One suggestion by the consultant to undertake a more comprehensive study was rejected by AACRA’s head as a waste of time.
“The Authority expects the construction to begin in full swing right after the design is improved based on the comments,” Fekadu said.
After observing the designs and attending the presentation of the study, Bikila Tekilu, from the Addis Abeba University recommended that there should be an integrated study on the ring road.
“It is not only the segment of the ring road to be connected to the intersection that has a problem, but there should be some consideration for the whole area,” Bikila said.
The AAU is studying 27 intersections in the city, including this project site, where it has been observed that there is a high traffic management problem, according to Bikila.
AACRA will announce a tender for contractors in January 2016, Fekadu said.
“The do-minimum option might be acceptable if we had no budget; but now we need a sustainable road at this place,” he said.