Health Board still reluctant to greenlight Ülemiste terminal plan

Ülemiste passenger terminal detailed plan.
Ülemiste passenger terminal detailed plan. Source: Tallinn City Government

The Health Board has still not approved the Rail Baltic Ülemiste terminal detailed plan as it finds the Peterburi tee noise pollution problem remains unsolved. Tallinn has a way to bypass the agency's concerns and take the plan forward.

The board first pointed to the area's noise problems last year, and even though some changes have been introduced, including an updated noise pollution survey, the agency is still not satisfied.

Noise levels are already unacceptable near Peterburi tee, while the terminal detailed plan stands to make things worse. "What we have there today (for example, at Peterburi tee 4) is not a good living environment (with noise levels exceeded), while noise pollution is forecast to grow further," the board wrote in a letter to the city last week.

The agency is also worried about plans of moving tram tacks closer to residential buildings.

Even though the noise pollution survey suggests that the planned Small Tallinn Ring Road (a separate project) should reduce traffic by 10 percent on Peterburi tee and Suur-Sõjamäe tänav, the Health Board is concentrating on projected traffic noise and maintains that the overall situation stands to worsen.

Because the situation near Peterburi tee already exceeds acceptable noise levels (by eight or nine decibels), the agency cannot approve the plan.

"The detailed plan's noise levels assessment has been updated to suggest that planned noise sources would not exceed the norm, while they would add to the general noise level that is already on the other side of what is acceptable. Measures currently planned are not enough to keep projected noise levels from growing in the future," Heleri Robtsenkov, head of proceedings for the board's northern regional arm, told ERR.

The Health Board proposes planning additional noise alleviation measures or amending the main design in a way that would keep noise levels from growing, she added.

Now, it is up to the city of Tallinn to decide whether the board's position merits introducing changes to the plan. Provided changes are not ordered, the detailed plan will probably not be presented to the board for approval again. In that case, Tallinn will decide whether to approve the plan considering feedback from agencies, Robtsenkov remarked.

This means that the city can move on with the detailed plan even without the board's blessing.

Madle Lippus, deputy mayor in charge of city planning, told ERR that while such a possibility exists, it will hopefully prove unnecessary.

"It is possible, while we would like to avoid such a scenario as noise has objective negative health effects," she said.

Lippus said it will take time to arrive at a solution.

Tallinn is also working on a new noise levels map and relevant activity plan. Lippus said that noise categories are too rigidly set in the general plan for Peterburi tee and that the area in question could be designated as a third category zone, which would make current noise levels acceptable.

Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet said that Tallinn finds itself in the crossfire with the terminal, with one side looking to expedite the Rail Baltic terminal project and the other (Health Board) applying the brakes.

Svet said that Tallinn will continue to look for ways to reduce noise levels, with one such option reconstructing Peterburi tee for which a plan is being put together.

Encroaching deadlines

Deadlines for the Ülemiste terminal of the Rail Baltic project are pressing. Developers want to sign the construction contract this fall, while that requires a building permit and valid detailed plan. Tallinn city council would have to establish the detailed plan before heading for summer holiday, or inside the month of June.

Deadlines are becoming more critical as the lion's share of Rail Baltic funding is coming from the European Union.

ERR has approached the project's managing company Rail Baltic Estonia for comment.

The Tallinn city government approved the detailed plan for the Ülemiste terminal and the surrounding area in April.

The area covers 11.47 hectares (28.3 acres) in the Ülemiste urban region of Lasnamäe district. The plan prescribes construction and reconstruction of railway infrastructure and construction of the Ülemiste terminal building, bus station building and a business center.

The plan entails changing the location of tram tracks and includes several squares as well as paths for pedestrians and cyclists.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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