Design criteria for Tallinn's Little Ring Road taken to court

Tallinn's Little Ring Road is slated to pass under Tallinn Airport by tunnel.
Tallinn's Little Ring Road is slated to pass under Tallinn Airport by tunnel. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Designs for the long-planned Little Ring Road around Tallinn are nearly complete, but the underlying design criteria have been taken to court, the Transport Administration told ERR.

Construction of Little Ring Road along the border of Tallinn and the neighboring Rae Municipality has been more seriously planned for the past decade or so. While the planned road is now closer than ever to actually being built, the project will at least initially be delayed by a court case.

Namely, the designs themselves for Little Ring Road (riigitee 96) — slated to bypass the Estonian capital more closely than the current Tallinn Ring Road (põhimaantee 11) — are already essentially complete, but the design criteria themselves on which the designs are based have been taken to court, Transport Administration spokesperson Erki Varma told ERR.

"Until the dispute has concluded, it cannot be said that the project is complete," Varma said. "After the court issues its decision, followup actions will be agreed upon between partners of the Tallinn Little Ring Road project."

Little Ring Road is intended to draw more vehicular traffic away from Tallinn as well as make the congested Tartu maantee — the portion of Tallinn-Tartu Highway (põhimaantee 2) that runs into the city itself — safer.

Planned as a 2+2 highway, the newer ring road is slated to run from Smuuli tänav to Viljandi maantee, and designs for it also include pedestrian and bike paths as well as the necessary bridges, overpasses, bus stops, pedestrian tunnels as well as a tunnel under Tallinn Airport.

The design speed for Little Ring Road is 80 km/h, indicating that the speed limit along most of the road would be 70 km/h; along some sections, such as those falling within Tallinn city limits, the speed limit would be reduced to 50 km/h. According to preliminary designs, the maximum speed limit would be 70 km/h along sections of the ring road located beyond intersections in Rae Municipality, with the exception of the stretch running from Tallinn-Tartu Highway to Kanarbiku tee, where it would likewise be capped at 50 km/h.

Tunnel to be built under airport

While one initial option involved routing the new ring road around Tallinn Airport, the Transport Administration ultimately nixed that option due to how much longer it would make the route, leaving just one other option: to build a tunnel under the airport.

Two possible options for the tunnel have currently been drawn up, the first of which is longer and more curved and would have a max speed limit of 50 km/h; the latter is shorter, straighter and would allow for top speeds of up to 70 km/h.

The planned tunnel will be approximately one kilometer long, or more than three times the length of Estonia's current longest tunnel, which carries Tallinn's Järvevana tee.

In spring 2021, the planned tunnel was estimated to cost approximately €100 million. According to Varma, the current estimate is the same, but will likely change.

"Prices have been calculated based on 2021 prices," he explained. "In that respect, the cost will definitely have to be specified in the future. The cost of the tunnel can also change as the main project is refined."

Planned route of Tallinn's Little Ring Road, with the route marked in blue and two options for the tunnel under Tallinn Airport marked in green and yellow. Source: Hendrikson & Ko

More expensive option picked for Tartu Highway junction

Two options had likewise been under consideration for Little Ring Road's junction with Tallinn-Tartu Highway, the more expensive of which was ultimately chosen: a traffic light-regulated traffic circle with Tallinn-Tartu Highway rerouted to an overpass. Pedestrian traffic on three levels will likewise be routed through a traffic light-regulated intersection. A tunnel at Lepiku tee was also added to the design at the request of Rae Municipality.

The other, €4.2 million cheaper option would have seen Little Ring Road, together with its bike and pedestrian paths, routed over Tallinn-Tartu Highway via an overpass.

Diagram of the planned Little Ring Road at its intersection with Tallinn-Tartu Highway. Source: Hendrikson & Ko


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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