May take 15 years to achieve four-lane highways, says economic minister ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre).
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

According to Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Taavi Aas (Centre), expanding Estonia's major highways into four-lane highways is a major operation that may indeed take some 15 years to complete, as recently stated in an interview by Road Administration Director of Strategic Planning Martin Leng.

A total of 145 kilometers of Tallinn-Narva, Tallinn-Tartu and Tallinn-Pärnu Highways have been expanded into four-lane roads, with another 366 kilometers to go, Aas told ERR on Monday.

"This is a massive volume, and in order to succeed, we need more designers, builders and building materials," he said. "A 15-year program is necessary to ensure that the designers and builders manage to train the necessary engineers and employees and that builders could conduct quarry surveys and procure mining permits."

Should the implementation of a public-private partnership (PPP) allow for a reduction in construction time, that would be very welcome, the minister added.

In an interview with the winter 2019 edition of Teeleht (link in Estonian), Leng said that under a public-private partnership, the expansion of Tallinn-Narva Highway, Tallinn-Tartu Highway and Tallinn-Pärnu Highway into four-lane highways would cost €1.7 billion, take 15 years to complete and require the hiring of 50-60 additional employees by the Road Administration.

"So it tends to go, unfortunately," Aas said, agreeing with Leng's estimate that planning and preparatory work alone would take five years. "Once the thematic plan is in hand, just over two years then goes to the legally required environmental impact assessment for the planned section of road alone. The preliminary road design documentation for the section of road is drawn up within this time as well. The land expropriation process takes the same amount of time, the exact length of which depends on the number of properties along the route of a specific section of road. Add to that time spent on design and procurement tender announcements. There are very few places we can save on time."

Commenting on the need for additional staff, the minister noted that this would depend on both what the government decides as well as the speed at which these projects advance.

"Staff needs when building large-scale infrastructure projects are great not just on the contractor's end but also on the contracting entity's end," Aas explained. "The implementation of PPP projects requires increased legal and engineering competences. Exactly how great human resources requirements will depend on what the government decides as well as the extent and tempo of PPP project implementation."

At its final cabinet meeting of 2019 on December 19, the Estonian government approved the principles and guidelines for public–private partnerships, based upon which the state will pair up with the private sector for the construction of large-scale infrastructure projects.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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