Based on a proposal by the Minister of Public Administration, Jaak Aab (Center), the Estonian government decided to initiate a spatial plan to assess and design a fixed connection between mainland Estonia and the island of Muhu, connecting to Saaremaa.
Aab said: "By initiating the spatial plan we open the door for possible construction of a fixed link between mainland Estonia and Muhumaa. During the process we will get answers to questions about if and where it is possible. We will thoroughly investigate all possible effects to find the best solution in the form of a bridge or tunnel."
A public opinion poll was conducted in the start of the year, based on which the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (MKM) was given approval to submit an application to the public administration minister to initiate the spatial plan. MKM submitted the application in April.
The Ministry of Finance polled the municipalities of Lääneranna, Muhu, and Saaremaa. The stances of MKM, Ministry of the Environment, Road Administration, and Environmental Board were also taken into account. Based on the collected data, a proposal was made to the government to initiate a spatial plan to develop a fixed connection over the strait.
The public administration minister added: "The collected verbal and written feedback shows dissenting opinions on creating a link between the mainland and Muhumaa."
Aab added: "Lääneranna Municipality clearly prefer a bridge, but the Estonian Chamber of Environmental Associations only see a tunnel as a possible option. According to them, the construction of a bridge is already excluded because it would have far-reaching effects on birds and ringed seals."
According to an analysis made by the Road Administration, residents of Saaremaa and Lääneranna support a bridge or tunnel over Suur Strait. The residents of Muhu Municipality however do not support the plan. Further details of the analysis can be read here (link in Estonian).
Final decisions and conclusions on the potential fixed link can only be made after proper further assessments have been conducted. Further environmental, social, economic, and cultural assessments will be conducted next, with the base positions of the plan also being confirmed.
The Suur Strait lies between Muhu and mainland Estonia and also links the Väinameri, a bay encircled by the islands of Muhu, Saaremaa, Hiiumaa and Vormsi, and the Gulf of Riga.
Plans for a bridge have been touted for years. One of the main questions has been funding, with the possibility of using Chinese capital having been on the table in recent years, as well as that from companies both local and international.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste