In an opinion sent to the Ministry of Finance, Lääneranna Municipal Mayor Mikk Pikkmets said that a planned bridge spanning the Suur Strait cannot split the borough of Virtsu into two separate parts, which is why, of three possible route variations, the municipality only supports the option whose mainland end is located on the north side of the more densely-populated part of Virtsu.
"The fixed link and the infrastructure needed for it to function (Risti-Virtsu Highway, bike and pedestrian lanes, intersections with Virtsu streets, crosswalks, traffic management) cannot split the borough of Virtsu into two parts separated from one another," Pikkmets wrote. "The plan solution must ensure that the living environment and road safety in the borough of Virtsu do not worsen, but rather improve."
He noted that a living environment has developed in Virtsu that is typical of a suburban area.
"Route II (north of the densely-populated part of Virtsu) as added to the bill can be anticipated to have a lesser impact on the borough of Virtsu than the tunnel route and bridge route III, which run from the south side of the borough," he explained. "If the more southerly fixed link routes were implemented, all traffic using the fixed link and all related negative impacts (noise, exhaust fumes, traffic hazards) would run through the borough of Virtsu."
According to the municipal mayor, any possible fixed link — and the infrastructure needed for it to function (including Risti-Virtsu Highway) must take not just the needs of cargo and passenger transport between the islands and the mainland but also pedestrian and bike traffic into account, and offer them opportunities to use the fixed link spanning Suur Strait.
"We anticipate that the popularity of the entire Western Estonian mainland and islands will increase among hikers and other people who enjoy eco-friendly tourism, and the Suur Strait bridge could be a significant tourist attraction as well as serve as a significant supplement and junction for existing hiking routes," he said.
Pikkmets added that he believed that a bridge would be a better option than a tunnel, as a bridge could be built as a unique and architecturally outstanding landmark in the Baltic Sea region, while a tunnel would only serve as a fast connection.
"Crossing the bridge while looking at the sea and seaside nature (beaches, islets, bird habitats) would be an experience unto itself, which could only be surpassed by crossing over to Muhu and/or islets and small islands via ice roads during cold winters," he said. "A visually attractive Suur Strait bridge with a good location and usability by various groups of road users could provide the borough of Virtsu with a developmental boost."
In early April, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) submitted an application for the launch of a national special plan and a strategic environmental impact assessment for the construction of a fixed link between the Estonian mainland and the island of Muhu. The goal of the special plan would be to ensure whether it would be possible to build a fixed link and, if so, along what route.
Editor: Aili Vahtla