Plans for the renovation of Tartu's Friendship Bridge (Sõpruse sild) have finally been completed. However, opposition politicians say the planned renovations will encourage increased car traffic.
According to Oleg Lužetski head of Tartu's road services, the bridge project involved a discussion about whether to prioritize motor traffic or cyclists. Originally, the plan had been to leave 1+1, or one lane moving in each direction, for cars and create more space on the bridge for cyclists. However, Lužetski pointed out that such a split would lead to increased traffic congestion. It took the City of Tartu six months to reach a workable solution.
"We had to analyze all the traffic. We had to count the traffic, then make several sketches and came to the conclusion that if we can widen the bridge and ensure proper light traffic on the widened part, then we can allow for 2+2 lanes. At the moment the lane width is 3.5 meters. With the new solution, the inner lanes will be 2.75 meters wide and the outer lanes 3 meters wide," he said.
Tartu City Council member Pärtel Piirimäe (Eesti 200) believes the city government has missed an opportunity to further promote light traffic and walking. He said that the city government had sought a compromise between different groups, but in the end, car traffic was favored, with the option of designating one side of the bridge for light traffic only, ultimately cast aside.
According to Piirimäe, a 2+2 bridge is only needed for a brief period during peak hours. The rest of the time, it would simply contribute to generating increased traffic.
In response to the criticism, Tartu Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm (Reform) said after the renovation, there will be significantly wider sidewalks for pedestrians on both sides of the bridge.
"On both sides of the bridge, cyclists will be able to cycle in both directions. It's not the usual situation, where you have a cycle lane on one side of the street in one direction and on the other side going in the other direction. The width of the cycle lanes will be two and a half meters on both sides of the bridge. In addition, the width of the sidewalk for pedestrians will be 2.5 meters on both sides of the bridge. Overall, there is going to be a fairly substantial area for pedestrians compared to what there is at the moment."'
Tamm added that the different traffic groups will be separated and it will be made easier for pedestrians to get off the bridge.
"At the moment, to get to the river or canal you have to walk to the end of the bridge and come back round to your desired destination, but now there will be stairs to two different points on the bridge. One will allow you to get off the bridge on the right-hand bank of the river. The other will be in the area between the canal and the river, where it will be possible for pedestrians to get directly to the ground without [having to first walk ] to the end of the bridge."
According to Tamm, the cost of repairing the bridge and its associated crossings will come to between €10 million and €12 million. He estimates work could begin this fall, with the bridge expected to be fully completed in 2026.
Editor: Michael Cole