Going Gets Tough

Rain rendering roads impassable

The ongoing road and rail construction in Addis Abeba is causing chaos, with the seasonal rains adding to the problem. Both people travelling by foot and vehicles are struggling to pass areas where rain has left huge puddles and construction causes severe obstacles. The Addis Abeba City Roads Authority (AACRA) is, however, optimistic, claiming that the majority of road construction projects are 80pc complete, reports FASIKA TADESSE FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.

While road and rail construction goes on in Addis Abeba, it seems that people navigating the city will continue to have great problems getting around. And now with the rainy season almost in full flow and contractors having done little to accommodate it at their project sites, some people, like 60-year-old Abebech Afework, need a helping hand here and there to get across holes and puddles.

The mother of five who works at the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association (ETOA) always has to cross the road and rail track construction at Megenagna on her way to and from her house in the Hayarat area. Back from work on Tuesday June 24, 2014, the rain had made the spot where she crosses very slippery and she had to spend a short while figuring out how to cross until a helping hand took her arm and helped her across.

“What makes the road much more difficult is the rainy season,” she says.

Such problems are commonplace, with Addis Abeba undertaking 146 road construction projects, as well as the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project. This includes 32.7kms of asphalt and 63.8kms of gravel roads, for which the Addis Abeba City Roads Authority (AACRA) has had a budget of 3.7 billion Br.

The progress of these roads seems less than satisfactory for the AACRA, and difficult for residents walking and driving along the streets of the city. A month ago, during a tour of the projects by higher officials, including Mayor Driba Kuma, the AACRA’s head Fekade Haile(Eng) told contractors to speed up their work before the rainy season caught up with them.

While Fekade is optimistic because most of the contractors have attained what is called sub-base level of construction, few are yet to make the roads ready for vehicles and pedestrians; most are also not performing according to the requirement of the AACRA, according to Fekade. That is causing problems to people at different sites.

Israeli contractor, Tidhar Construction Ltd, is undertaking the construction of the 2.8km road from Abune Petros to Pasteur, which is only 30pc complete – among the slowest progress in the city. Near Menelik Square, where this road comes close to the LRT project, there is an open sewer between the two with no manhole protecting it.  During Fortune’s visit of the area on Tuesday June 24, 2104, the sewage was spilling out onto the asphalt road, making it very difficult for both people and vehicles to get across.

“Every night at least one person falls into the drainage tube, which is very deep,” said Abush Zenebe, 27, a father of one who has lived almost his entire life around St. George Church, now working as a guard for a boutique near the Awaliya Primary School. His son was one of those, and he had to send him to live with his grandparents to avoid any more accidents.

CMC to Megenagna and Balcha to Tor Hailoch are no better for those having to use these roads. People complain of three-wheel taxis not offering their usual service at the usual rate because of mud around CMC and, once on the main road, taxis have to drop them far from Megenagna Square because of the ongoing construction.

Once at Megenagna Square, “I fell down three times because of the mud”, says Helina Nigusu, who has to pass that way every day.

For Abel Tereffe, who travels daily from the CMC area to Amist Kilo, where he attends class at the Addis Abeba Insititute of Technology, getting to class is not only taking longer but also costing more, because of the extra fees for the three-wheel taxis.

It was a similar story of woes on the Balcha-Tor Hailoch road. Dessalegne Beyene’s taxi was stuck in the mud in front of Ambessa Shoe S.C on June 25, an incident which has happened twice this week. Traffic was jammed for 20 minutes because of that. The road was muddy and had puddles everywhere; even pedestrians had difficulty moving around.

“The road was difficult because of the dust and now it becomes more difficult because of the mud,” said an attorney who was on his way to the Lideta Federal High Court.

Regardless of the complaints, it seems the woes will continue for as long as the construction drags on, the AACRA warns.

“We ordered the contractors of the LRT to fix the drainage pipe [at St George Church] before the rainy season to avoid any accidents, but they did nothing,” said Ahmedin Busser, work process head of monitoring of the construction of roads at the AACRA.

The Ethiopian Railway Corporation and its LRT are also proving a problem for the AACRA, the Authority says, along the Lideta to Tor Hailoch road. The ERC is constructing an overpass, under which will be an asphalt road that is only 38pc complete, for which the AACRA blames the ERC.

“The construction of the road lags because the ERC cannot finalise the rail on time,” said Ahmedin. “They promised us they would finish the project in June, but they did not, so we cannot go on with the asphalt construction.”

Like his boss, Ahmedin sounds hopeful, saying that most road projects in the city are 80pc complete, and those that have not progressed well are covered with red ash, which will minimise the mud. The AACRA is also disqualifying from further contracts those that are lagging behind. While it did not specify which of those contractors it had screened from its latest  contracts, worth a billion Birr, among those companies that the city cited as having performed less than 50pc on roads which they should have prgress well by July include Afro Tsion, SatCon, Tidhar and CRBC Engineering.


Published on June 29, 2014 [ Vol 15 ,No 739]



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