Auditor: Lack of funding may hinder meeting EU road requirements by 2030

Google street view car on an Estonian highway.
Google street view car on an Estonian highway. Source: ERR

Estonia is likely not to be able to fulfil its commitment to the European Union to properly reconstruct two major highways by 2030, the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) finds.

The two highways run from the capital, in a southwesterly direction to Ikla on the Latvian border, in one case (via Pärnu) and to the Luhamaa border crossing in the far southeast of Estonia, via Tartu.

While the quality driving comfort on public roads in Estonia in general has constantly been improving over the past few years, financing of their maintenance and is facing sharp cutbacks in the coming years, the National Audit Office says.

Auditor General Janar Holm said: "In a situation of insufficient financing for achieving the objectives, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications needs to set its priorities according to the financing capabilities or propose additional financing sources for road maintenance."

"Given the rapid increase in prices, the actual volume of roadworks is expected to decrease several times over the coming years," Holm continued, via a press release.

The Transport Administration (Transpordiamet), the reduction in the financing may result in defects in roads by 2025 which cannot be repaired within the planned financing.

A 2019 estimate found that €193 per annum was the optimum sum needed to ensure at least a satisfactory level of all high-traffic roads and to improve overall conditions, but plans for the period 2022–2025 show a trend for a fall, from €141.8 million to €80.9 million over that period, the audit office says.

This means EU commitments to build the Tallinn-Pärnu-Ikla and Tallinn-Tartu-Võru-Luhamaa highways by 2030, in accordance with requirements and safety objectives, will not be viable in both cases.

At present, between 20 and 30 percent of the Trans-European Transport Network TEN-T requirements are met by the two highways as they are now, the audit office says.

These requirements include separate roadways in each direction, separated from each other by a barrier, while crossing.

TEN-T-compliant roads in Estonia have thus far been EU-funded, but these sums are insufficient nowadays the audit office says

The implementation plan of the Cohesion Policy funds of the EU budget period 2021–2027 and the draft partnership agreement sees €159 million allocated to public roads in the financial period 2021–2027, whereas an an average of up to €214.3 million annually should be allocated until 2050 to achieve TEN-T objectives, the office says.

This also jeopardizes the chances of meeting a three-year average national road fatalities figure of 40 per year by 2025, the office says.

Funds required to make roads dust-free need to be around four-times the sums currently seen, the audit office says.

This refers to the approximately 1,800 km of gravel roads to be blacktopped by 2030, or 200 km a year, which would cost €20.5 million annually, at current prices – whereas less than €5 million is earmarked for the process.

EU support has been the most significant input in to the improvement of Estonia's main highways in the past 15 years, but around 25 percent of secondary roads are not in a satisfactory condition, and are sometimes maintained and improved more cheaply than needed.

As of the beginning of 2022, public roads in Estonia total 16,662 km, of which 1,605 km (9.5 percent) are main highways, 2,408 km (14.2 percent) are basic roads, 12,515 km (73.9 percent) are secondary roads and other public roads, and 134 km (0.8 percent) consist of rampways and connecting roads.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Riigikontroll

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