This year, the Road Administration drilled into finished roads around the country for the first time to find out why they tend to crumble, the ETV's investigative program "Pealtnägija" reported. It says it found major breaches of contract.
The most notorious highway is the section of Tallinn-Tartu road built before the recession, which cost 5 million euros per kilometer. Less than a year after the Mäo bypass opened in 2010, construction inspectors identified 42 problems in the 6.2 km of the 110 kph four-lane highway.
The Road Administration vowed it would investigate, while Nordecon Infra, the contractor, called the problems normal for any complicated project.
Four years later, as patching of holes still continued, the Road Administration had enough of the excuses from Nordecon and the new director Aivo Adamson, a former banker who took the helm after a series of scandals at the agency, and did something unprecedented - ordered the asphalt in Mäo to be opened up with drills and deconstructed for laboratory analysis. Ten other sites nationwide were also analyzed in the same way.
"We noted that the freshly completed new and renovated or repaired roads showed signs of crumbling. We had to be sure what caused this problem," he said.
Added deputy Road Administration director Kaupo Sirk: Our goal has been to prove to builders that the places are probably not in line with the requirements and so they shouldn't continue patching holes but eliiminate the source problem."
The first signs that the results were truly bad came this spring. But the Road Administration directors went public to "Pealtnägija" only last week.
Sirk: "Often the actual situation varied two-fold from the contractual requirements set by the Road Administration."
The Road Administration has promised to release the full results and the identity of the 11 sites on October 8.
The only other site it disclosed to ETV was the bypass around Pärnu that opened two years ago, which is experiencing subsidence in the wheel tracks at the intersections due to improper binder content.
There, for example, the builder had to use 5.4 percent bitumen in the mix but 5.9 percent was used, said a Road Administration specialist - a big difference that makes the asphalt behave "like Plasticine," a brand of modelling clay, on hot days.