City of Tallinn pledges green, cyclist-friendly capital when roadworks over

Tallinn traffic covered in dust from roadworks.
Tallinn traffic covered in dust from roadworks. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The first major ongoing roadwork projects started last fall and included an extensive rework of the North-South Jõe-Pronski route in central Tallinn, and the revamped Vana-Kalamaja street to the West of the city center.

As spring arrived several more major projects began at the same time, including the Old City Harbor tram extension work, just a couple of blocks away from Jõe-Pronksi, infrastructure work underneath Liivalaia, another major thoroughfare, and the reconfiguration of the Tondi tram-rail-road intersection, to the South of the city center.

The upshot essentially saw parts of the city center impassable, with not only driving, but even negotiating the streets on foot, proving a challenge, while local businesses on affected streets have been hit hard.

The first of the big projects is set to be finished this fall, Tallinn City Government says, rejecting any claims that the capital will become, or remain, too car-centric.

Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center) said: "I don't agree with that position. I think if we take a look at what's under construction right now, what's at design stage now, and what we're going to build next year, /.../ we're still constructing around the city-space in order to make it more bike-friendly and more pedestrian-friendly."

Svet added that Tallinn's overall profile will become greener, thanks to tree-planting which will be done in such a way, using containers, as not to damage the subsoil.

Vladimir Svet (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Prior to this trees were simply planted as they were; their roots caused damage to sidewalks or other infrastructure in places, Svet said, and while as many of the existing trees were preserved as was possible, new ones have been planted too.

"Ultimately there will be about twice as many trees, if my memory serves me well, plus several thousand shrubs too," Svet went on.

One Tallinner, musician Rainer Ild, told AK that he liked the idea of the new greenery.

"It seems that at least they have demarcated the cycle lanes with red paint, so they have at least begun to think about that to change the cityscape. Personally, it seems that some steps are being taken. I would like to know what these really are and what their plan is," he said.

Tallinn University urban studies professor Tauri Tuvikene told AK he is optimistic that the city government is certainly taking these issues seriously. At the same time, he said the current plans are too outmoded.

Tauri Tuvikene. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

This included too car-centric of an approach, he said.

Visuals of most of the planned work, as it will look when finished (the Vana-Kalamja project is the exception to this – ed.), have been lacking, leaving many residents scratching their heads as to what the newly revived center will look like once the work is done, and how extensive the landscaping, pedestrianized and cycle lane aspects will be.

As is often the case when extensive road or other construction work takes place in Tallinn, at least one archaeological find has slightly held up progress.

That so many projects came at once also in part relates to funding issues, including external funding as the latest EU budgetary period came to an end.

Summer was also seen by the authorities as the best time for the greatest overlap in projects, since schools and universities are on their summer break, and many residents go on vacation or even clear out of the capital, for the countryside, altogether.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Katre-Liis Võhma.

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