More than one Estonian city is having trouble with transit roads passing through their territory and the maintenance of which the local government has been tasked with. Cities might not have the necessary funds to renovate important roads, such as Peterburi Road (Peterburi tee) in Tallinn.
Peterburi Rd. could just as easily be referred to as the Narva Highway, while the state highway officially ends where Tallinn begins and becomes known as Peterburi Road. The fact the road is owned by the city and not the state is also evidenced in its terrible condition as it heads into town.
The state and the city of Tallinn have been arguing over who should be responsible for the road for ages. Tallinn wants to fix the road but lacks the necessary funds, as put by Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart in October.
"I am truly embarrassed, but the city just doesn't have the money today. We're talking about a major investment," Kõlvart said, adding, however, that Tallinn's possibilities for renovating Peterburi Rd. will be reviewed in the course of 2020 city budget strategy deliberations.
Estimates put the cost of renovating the entire road at €40 million.
"We are still hoping that because the transit corridor is also a state priority, it will have state funding," Kõlvart said.
Tallinn feels that major transit roads passing through the city should be registered as state roads and their maintenance should be the state's business. Recent efforts to hand sections of state roads in Tallinn over to the central government have failed as an analysis commissioned by the latter concluded Tallinn does not have a single street with the characteristics of a state road.
Director General of the Road Administration Priit Sauk said on ERR news program "Otse uudistemajast" that it is between the city and the state to decide which streets, if any, should move into state hands.
"A few places in Tallinn could be considered, but that does not mean a notable percentage of Tallinn's roads and streets should be state roads," Sauk said.
He added that the administration is currently working with Tallinn on the design of the smaller Tallinn ring road, while it remains undecided whether it should be a municipal or state highway in the future.
"The jury is also still out on whether the state highway from Narva should end with the Väo intersection that we will reconstruct this year or where it reaches Smuuli Road and would (in the future) connect to the small ring road," Sauk said.
Deputy head of the Tallinn Environment and Public Works Department Reio Vesiallik told ERR in October that because Peterburi Rd. is part of the TEN-T network of European roads, the city department made a proposal to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to fix Peterburi Road together with the Väo intersection using state funds.
State not interested in Tallinn streets
The head of the Road Administration said Estonia should first define transit roads and the function of state roads – whether it also includes connecting airports and harbors.
"State highways pass through certain settlements and end on the borders of others. A working group has spent years analyzing which roads should be state roads and how to organize funding. Rather, the conclusion now is that even more side roads should be handed over to local governments in the future, with financing, of course," Sauk said.
The working group finds that Tallinn wanted to give streets with state road characteristics over to the state back in 2014 when it sent a corresponding request to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (MKM). Back then, the dispute reached the Supreme Court, but Tallinn did not get what it wanted.
The ministry feels Tallinn should take care of its streets – irrespective of their importance as transport nodes.
The MKM and the Road Administration's joint analysis on side roads' correlation with characteristics of state roads found several local roads where those features exist and that could be registered as state roads – altogether 52 road sections with a total length of 47.4 kilometers.
Tallinn's streets are not on that list, Ain Tatter, head of the roads and railroads department of the ministry, told ERR.
Priit Sauk said that the Road Administration has no say in these matters.
"It is a matter of agreement between the state and the local government. The Road Administration does not make these decisions. Decisions of whether the acquire, swap or sell roads can only be made by the government. These are agreements and political decisions. The Road Administration's funding would not grow were we to be given these roads, which is why the existing road network would inevitably be paid less attention," Sauk said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski