The state says it will be starting work on widening a stretch of the Tallinn-Narva highway to four-lanes. The section of road lies in Ida-Viru County, though the editor-in-chief of a local daily says similar pledges have been made in the past, with no result so far.
Anti Palmi, regional head of the Transport Board's (Transpordiameet) infrastructure and maintenance section, told ERR that the project is planned for 2025-2028, and covers a stretch of a few kilometers, between the towns of Jõhvi and Toila, on the coast.
This plan is subject to review, however, he said. "The road management plan is regularly reviewed every year, and the exact start of construction of the road section depends on the decisions from the government of the republic, plus its state budget strategy."
"A preliminary project is currently being prepared, on whose basis we will assess construction cost and the need for land and consider alternative solutions," Palmi added.
Jõhvi municipal elder Max Kaur (Center) told ERR that the development is needed for road safety reasons, as well as to provide an impetus to tourism and economic growth.
Kaur said: "We will get a large technology park which is 90 percent complete. This means we need modern and safe roads. This is paramount, and we are awaiting it keenly. It will give an impetus to the development of the whole region."
Kaur's counterpart and party-mate in Toila, Eve East, said that the town had been waiting for the development for years, and agreed with Kaur over its benefits.
She said: "If there is a fast and secure connection, people will also visit Toila sites more."
The construction schedule falls within the long-term state road maintenance plan for 2021-2030.
Local journalist: Proposal is nothing new
Well-known Ida-Viru County journalist and editor-in-chief of regional daily Põhjarannik says that the topic has been talked about for close to 15 years now, however.
"Its implementation has been constantly postponed. The pre-design of a four-lane road section near the Jõhvi and Voka intersection is the first major step in this direction," Gamzejev told ERR, noting the long-discussed expansion would have run the 50km from Jõhvi, to the border town of Narva.
Gamzejev reported that then-Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Kadri Simson (Center) had said in March 2018 that the four-lane stretch would "almost certainly" be a Center pledge ahead of the general election which took place a year later, and after which Center stayed in office.
Gamzejev said Simson, now Estonia's European Commissioner: "Suggested that in addition to the Center Party, the construction of Estonia's three main roads would become a four-lane election promise for 'another' party, which should make the implementation of this plan real in the case of various coalition government permutations."
Center entered office with EKRE and Isamaa in April 2019. Center remained in office with Reform, in January this year, while local elections are taking place in October.
The lead-time from decision to finalization would be about six years, Kadri Simson had said in 2018, according to Gamzejev.
Simson was not the only politician Gamzejev could cite, adding former Reform MP Rein Aidma, who he said told him back in 2007 that the four-lane stretch was coming.
A 6-km section of the same highway which was completed over a decade ago, between Jõhvi and Kukruse, did indeed make traffic safer, Gamzejev said.
Estonia's main highways radiate from Tallinn towards Narva, Tartu, Pärnu and Paldiski. The switch to four-lanes has long been discussed, particularly with the Tallinn to Tartu highway, where work is already underway.
While four-lane stretches already existed, these tended to be close to larger population settlements.
Four-lane highways might permit slightly higher maximum speed limits than the current summer-time level of 110km/h, on some highways.
The Transport Administration, overseeing the roadworks, was only formed at the end of 2020 as a merger of three, previously separate state bodies covering land, maritime and air transport. The former Highways Administration (Maanteeamet) had dealt with roads.
Editor: Andrew Whyte