One of the biggest local infrastructure projects in recent years is opening to traffic today, featuring a tunnel for motorized traffic, a first for the country.
The opening of Ülemiste junction at a crossroads between Tallinn city center and the airport is being touted as a feather in the cap of city government. The ceremony alone, which is expected to snarl traffic for several hours this morning, has a 20,000-30,000 euro budget and a theme - the legend of the old man of Ülemiste - complete with what was expected to be a five-story-high statue of the mythical character. ERR will have a live feed of the ceremony at 12:00 today.
In defending the budget for the opening ceremony, mayoral adviser Meelis Pai compared the opening with the national Song Festival. "Is the Song Festival necessary? Come out tomorrow and see whether emotion has a price," he told uudised.err.ee. "While the cost of the junction was [dozens of millions of euros], I think the [ceremony] is tiny. We can give our big achievements a worthy celebration."
While in the Ülemiste legend, an old man floods the city upon learning that Tallinn has finally been completed, water removal was a main theme in the engineering and construction, which began with preliminary work in 2010-2011.
"The large-scale construction project was made more complicated by the high water table in the vicinity of Lake Ülemiste," said Merko, the contractor that led a consortium of companies, in a press release.
The drainage system hooks up with storm sewers and open concrete channels running through Kadriorg park to the sea.
The underground segment, 320 meters long with the approaches bringing the total segment to 680 meters, is a bona fide tunnel distinct from any existing glorified underpasses.
Estonians view the tunnel as foreigners might regard the country's ice roads. Dailies ran galleries of the new feature and published articles that talked about how to drive through the tunnel.
A total of 7.5 kilometers of new roads and 5.35 kilometers of new cycle and footpaths were built. There are also three tunnels for pedestrian and foot traffic, and a 150-meter overpass leading traffic on Peterburi mnt and Järvevana tee over Tartu mnt, which connects the city center with the airport and ultimately, Tartu.
The foot and cycle paths improve links between other parts of Tallinn's bike path system, including the city center.