A government program in Estonia aimed at improving the load capacity and tackling dust issues with the country's many gravel roads has been left without a significant amount of initially planned funding.
The gravel road improvement program was cut in order to pay for the widening of a stretch of Tallinn-Tartu Highway, reported daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian).
Although the paving over of a gravel road isn't the only or even necessarily the best solution for improving conditions, paving solves both major concerns, namely load capacity and dust issues, at once.
In 2015, €3 million was earmarked for the paving of gravel roads. In 2016, funding increased to €10.7 million, and according to plan, should have totaled €16.7 million this year and €17 million in 2020.
Former Prime Minsiter Taavi Rõivas' government made changes to the program in 2016 already, and according to the new plan, funding for the improvement of gravel roads had been cut drastically — from €9.3 million to €7.3 million in 2017, from €16.7 million to €6 million this year, and from €17 million to €4 million in 2020 — making for a total of tens of millions of euros in cuts.
Julia Bergštein, director of the Road Division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, said that the government decided to widen the Kose-Ardu-Võõbu-Mäo section of Tallinn-Tartu Highway, which was projected to cost €170 million, in 2017.
"Although an additional €40 million was allocated for the maintenance of state roads in 2019 and 2020 due to the construction of the Kose-Mäo section of the highway, we also had to review previously planned state roadwork volumes," Bergštein said, explaining why funding for the gravel road improvement program was cut so drastically.
As of the beginning of 2018, the Estonian state owns 4,725 kilometers of gravel roads. This total only accounts for 28.5 percent of all gravel roads in Estonia, however, the rest of which are under local government or private ownership.
Editor: Aili Vahtla