Rahva teenrid: four-lane highways not a done deal

Road construction.
Road construction. Source: ERR

Goals specified in the new national road maintenance plan might not realize in planned volume because political decisions are subject to change, journalists found on Vikerraadio's Rahva teenrid program.

Taavi Eilat said that people who like to drive between cities had reason to rejoice recently when the news broke that the government plans to construct four-lane highways from Tallinn to Tartu and Pärnu.

"However, it is too soon for a celebratory speech. It is a political decision and a ten-year goal. We will see at least two elections in that time to say nothing of funding," Eilat said.

The journalist said that if the goal is traffic safety, 2+1 roads would be far cheaper.

Huko Aaspõllu described the road maintenance plan as grand and ambitious, adding that it would cost approximately €1.7 billion to realize that equals about 15 percent of Estonia's annual state budget. "While the sum is much smaller when spread out over ten years, looking at how the government has been squeezing rocks for funding this year, it will not be an easy task," he said.

Aaspõllu went on to say that a measure of skepticism is needed when talking about public-private partnership as Estonia has had poor experience with such projects in the past, thinking back to renovation of schoolhouses and tenement houses. "It will end up costing the state more because a private company wants to make a profit."

Aaspõllu admitted that while four-lane highways are nice to drive on, to place them in financial context, €1.7 billion could pay for an extraordinary pensions hike and thousands of other things. "It is a matter of choices."

Krister Paris said he has not read a single serious argument to suggest Estonia needs a four-lane highway from Tallinn to Tartu. "Looking at traffic density, it is a luxury project. It's desire to do something no matter the cost without there being a need for it," Paris said. "And looking at how we're already cutting corners, we run the risk of overlooking the small things, like maintaining existing roads."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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