Manuela Pihlap: Tallinn building instead of offering a future of potholes
Tallinn is at least building, while the Reform Party offers a future riddled with potholes, Manuela Pihlap writes in response to Pärtel-Peeter Pere's recent opinion article.
Tallinn has been fiercely criticized by the Reform Party's Pärtel-Peeter Pere over ongoing roadworks in the city.
There are indeed a lot of inconveniences in Tallinn traffic today, but they are temporary. The good news is that at least Tallinn is building and will be in a much better state from this fall. In the rest of Estonia, however, roadbuilding is becoming a thing of the past, as the Estonian Infra Construction Association (ESTICA) has pointed out on several occasions. It is a much bigger problem and one that actually affects people's prosperity and the economy as a whole.
Roadbuilding budgets drying up
Pere accuses Tallinn of poor organization of roadworks. However, I would still emphasize that building roads is better than not building them. The Reform Party's leadership has seen [national] roadworks funding reduced by many times compared to a few years ago. Road maintenance spending is set to fall by €50 million next year and by €100 million the year after that, whereas this year's budget is nothing to write home about either.
ESTICA have warned that if this trend is allowed to continue, Estonia will not have four-lane highways for another century. Companies are drawing up plans for selling their machinery and making staff cuts. Restoring roadbuilding capacity will take years should the turn ever come.
Even though Estonia has promised the European Union to develop the Tallinn-Pärnu-Ikla and Tallinn-Tartu-Võru-Luhamaa highways based on higher standards by 2030, this promise will very likely not be kept. Pere also fails to mention the fact that municipalities ruled by his party are building roads primarily on the central government's dime, as opposed to municipal budgets, and that most streets were fixed up when Reform were not running the country.
Funding pulled from traffic safety
Pärtel-Peeter Pere has previously accused (link in Estonian – ed.) the Tallinn Transport Department of traffic deaths in the city. At the same time, his party has basically pulled national traffic safety program funding meant for reconstructing dangerous road and street sections. While this year's road maintenance budget earmarks €4.7 million for the project, this drops to zero for next year and the one after.
What about infrastructure to promote sustainable modes of transport? This year's budget €3.5 million, while it is again zero for 2024 and 2025. Not finishing four-lane highways continues to negatively impact road safety.
Pere is concerned for Tallinn pedestrians. Unfortunately, his party has also slashed funding for paving gravel roads, leaving pedestrians at the mercy of dust in the summer and mud in spring and fall. Funding for paving over gravel roads is also set to fall from €1.6 million this year to nothing at all the next two years.
The Reform Party also plans to change local government funding principles, which would rob Tallinn of €4.6 million in revenue. Yet another thing to impact roadbuilding.
But Reform also seem to have it out for drivers as the party plans to collect €120 million through a car tax. This means adding hundreds of euros in additional expenses in a situation where people are already struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. Estonia is the unofficial European price advance champion, with the competitiveness of our economy melting away along with people's savings.
I'm sure that someone who styles themselves Tallinn's bike mayor may even be glad when driving a car is turned into a privilege of the few. However, it all comes off a little hypocritical when than someone then applies for a free parking permit from the City Council.
By the way, I strongly recommend to Pärtel-Peeter Pere reading the Reform Party's 2010 election program: "One thing is for certain – we do not plan to tax private vehicles." It seems that we have once again read someone's lips wrong.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski