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Municipalities struggling to maintain slippery roads

Slippery roads (photo is illustrative).
Slippery roads (photo is illustrative). Source: Margus Muld/ERR

In the current rapidly changing weather conditions, the condition of local government-maintained roads is often worse than that of state-maintained ones, in part due to terrain – the local roads are simply often hillier and with more bends to them.

The issue is particularly serious during slippery conditions such as those experienced this week as mild temperatures, sleet and rain and strong winds brought havoc to roads nationwide.

A better notification system could help alleviate the problem in future, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Thursday.

Three days of very slippery conditions in Alutaguse Rural Municipality in Ida-Viru County emerged in particular on these trickier sections of road.

Kalle Kuusik, the supervision specialist at Alutaguse municipality, said: "Anti-skid gravel tends to get washed away with the water. It is challenging to find the right point at which to start applying anti-slip measures, with the result being that the road becomes slippery in any case."

The municipality's maintenance work starts first around the schools and kindergartens, then turning to the main roads. Kuusik added that naturally the budget is monitored on this.

Kuusik said: "The work has to be done smarter today so that we are in the right place at the right time, but as was the case on Wednesday, the weather conditions have been changing so quickly that often even this smartness lags a little behind the weather."

Janno Sammul, director of road maintenance at the Transport Administration (Transpordiamet), said local government roads are in a worse condition than state-run national highways, due to their sheer numbers and relative inaccessibility. Travel firms whose buses use minor roads a lot often start their day's scheduled routes before the maintenance equipment arrives; consequently they could consider using studded winter tires, he said.

"It is a matter of every service provider's conscience given the studded tires are actually permissible for trucks and buses. The question is their price, availability, and the competitive conditions under which the tender has been obtained in respect of transportation," Sammul went on.

In cases of poor road conditions, however, a better notification system could also be valuable going forward, he said.

"We have also been swapping ideas with the police to use, for example, in particularly extreme circumstances, notifications similar to those used in major force majeure or other emergency situations, namely the EE-alarm system.

"We also hope that the automotive industry will also catch up. In an age of technology and smartness, vehicles could already have the tech to 'inform' each other that a road is slippery, and that slowing down is required," he went on.

As things stand, it is vital to follow the tarktee.ee portal for monitoring road conditions and particularly in poor weather.

Poor driving conditions earlier in the week led to numerous reported accidents and two fatalities.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Maria-Ann Rohemäe.

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