What you need to know:
- Opening part of the bridge is expected to reduce the increased cost of transport.
The Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) has announced that all pedestrians and light vehicles will this week start using a section of River Katonga Bridge on the Kampala-Masaka highway.
Mr Allan Ssempebwa, the Unra spokesperson, said those cleared to use the bridge include pedestrians, bicyclists, boda bodas, commuter taxis, saloon cars, and buses.
“One lane at the bridge is now ready for light traffic and motorists will start using it by the end of this week. However, we ask all motorists to exercise maximum patience as they approach the bridge because traffic from the opposite side will be using one lane in the meantime as the contractor continues with the repair works,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Mr Ssempebwa did not state the exact date when light traffic will resume at the bridge. However, he insists that cargo trucks will continue using the diversion route through the districts of Gomba, Sembabule and Bukomansimbi.
Foot pilgrims from southwestern Uganda were the first to use the bridge last week after part of it collapsed on May 11 following flash floods that paralysed movement on the usually busy highway. The floods cut off the major highway to areas of central, south western Uganda and key neigbouring countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda and DR Congo.
The Works and Transport minister, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, said after opening a section of Katonga, the contractor, China Communications Company Ltd (CCCC), will now embark on erecting a steel bridge at the river.
“The contractor will erect a raised permanent pre-stressed concrete bridge whose construction will last for a year, and some months,” he said.
Mr John Bosco Bukenya, the chairperson of Masaka Taxi Drivers and Conductors Association, was upbeat about the news of allowing passenger vehicles to use the Katonga Bridge, saying they currently spend five hours on the diversion route and their vehicles consume a lot of fuel.
“Previously, we were using fuel of Shs120,000 on a single trip to Kampala, but currently, we use Shs200,000. Opening the bridge is going to save us a lot,” he said.
Currently, motorists from Kampala heading to Masaka use the diversion route through Mpigi-Butambala-Gomba-Sembabule –Bukomansimbi –Villa Maria-Nyendo-Masaka, which is more than 50kms longer, costing more fuel and time.
Some travellers from either Masaka or Kampala have been using engine-powered boats at Namirembe and Kiwambi landing sites respectively to cross River Katonga.
Opening part of the bridge is expected to reduce the increased cost of transport. Learners holidaying on either side of the bridge and have to access schools will also find it easy to connect to their destinations.