City of Tallinn, maintenance firms deny roadworks taking too long

Lengthy street closures in Tallinn and the ensuing disruption to traffic has led to anger from local residents, who question whether work could be done more quickly, or in a way more amenable to road users.

Road repairs and their attendant street closures in Tallinn take an unreasonably long time, many capital residents say.

At the same time, speedier repairs would cost more, while the speed versus cost trade-off is in a good balance at the moment, both the city government and road maintenance firms say, however.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor with responsibility for road maintenance Vladimir Svet (Center) said that generalizations about how quickly road maintenance should take are too "abstract", adding that it all depends on the specific work being done in each case.

Svet said: "In my opinion, talking about it in abstract terms is quite pointless. If a road building company has a very specific example, where it could have done one or another job faster for the same money as one of our contractual partners, then I think in that case that should be stated, so we can essentially see if our partner is performing tasks as it should, or not."

At state level, procurement is handled by the Ministry of Finance.

However, the ministry is not able, legally speaking, to go into details and so generally does not investigate if disruption to traffic caused by roadworks is in proportion to the work being done, or not.

The relevant act, the Public Procurement Act, does not legislate for these issues, hence the ministry being unable to intervene.

Estella Põllu, deputy chief of the ministry's public procurement department, told ERR that: "Such circumstances are a question of expediency, but the Ministry of Finance does not supervise the expediency relating to the conditions of public procurement."

The ministry adds that it has not received a single complaint relating to Tallinn roadworks over the past year, although businesses taking part in such tenders can issue a complaint should they find that the conditions of a procurement are not in accordance with the law, for instance.

Deputy Mayor Svet adds that over the past year at least, road tenders were fulfilled, while placing higher demands on companies involved in construction would have led to costlier prices and then either the cancellation of projects or additional investments being made at the expense of other areas.

"We have to ask ourselves honestly, do we want Tallinn's urban space to be renewed at a sufficient pace - do we want to have several streets under construction at the same time or do we want the whole city to have one street under reconstruction per year, but where this reconstruction would be done very, very quickly."

Major road renovations in Tallinn over the past year include the remodeling of Vana-Kalamja (see gallery below), which when finished will lead to a direct route from the Kalamaja district of Tallinn, to the gates of the Old Town, past the Balti jaam train station, while the adjacent

Toompuiestee has also seen part-closures.

A main north-south arterial route along Jõe and Pronksi streets in central Tallinn is also currently undergoing work (see gallery above).

Furthermore, the minimum construction time is not usually included as a criterion in a tender process by the customer, ie. Tallinn City Government or the state, in our case.

One TREV-2 Grupp CEO Pertens, told ERR that in any case, the quicker the offered construction time, the lower the price offered to that tender, in his experience, while in at least one example, a minimum, short, time deadline was given, at a high price, but then in any case the minimum period was exceeded by a long way, meaning the work took the same amount of time but at a higher price than that offered by other applicants to tender, he said.

"No sanctions followed," Pertens added, without saying the name of the company in question.

Pertens agreed with Svet's assessment that projects should be looked at on a case-by-case basis; "You can't hard-boil an egg in half a minute," he said.

Pertens said in the Pronksi street case, where at least one lane must remain open to traffic at all times, the construction deadline is "reasonable".

For road builders, it would be quicker, cheaper and easier to have full road closures, Pertns added, but noted that this was not always viable, particularly at peak times in the capital.

Also, an earlier practice of a firm engaged in multiple tenders simultaneously and moving its workers between them is no longer the case – thought his means that lack of workers or equipment is not at fault, Pertens added; if anything, there has been a surplus, he said, saying that 600 people, or 16 percent of the total, were laid off from their jobs in that sector in the past year as it is.

Customers should also foresee scenarios when delays may occur, at tender stage, he said.

Vladimir Svet said that while adding various types of criteria could be done, including construction time, this would make procurement processes more complex, and possibly more protracted, including as a result of various tender applicants taking out court actions.

The reconstruction of Pronksi tänav began in October last year.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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