The Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson replied to the interpellation concerning the non-conformity of the design of Tallinn-Tartu highway to standards (No. 407), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas, Martin Helme, Uno Kaskpeit, Jaak Madison, Raivo Põldaru and Arno Sild on 18 December 2017.
The interpellators referred to the fact that the Kose-Ardu road section and the Ardu-Võõbu road section of Tallinn-Tartu highway had been designed as a class I highway with a design speed of 120 km/h. According to the Regulation on the design of roads, the cross-section of the relevant road sections had to be 3.75 metres per each lane, and the width of the hard shoulder had to be 2.5 metres. The interpellators pointed out that, in the design documentation of those road sections, the width of every lane was 3.5 metres instead, which was narrower by 25 cm than it should have been. It is the same with the width of the hard shoulder which is two metres while it should be wider by 50 cm. Within the framework of both projects, it is planned not to lay the uppermost layer of asphalt concrete coating.
The interpellators noted that that was violation of the current standards, as a result of which the quality and durability of the road section, and traffic safety on it, would be significantly impaired. In view of that, explanations were sought from the minister.
Simson noted that the Regulation of the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure “The Standards for the Design of Roads” allowed for the use of design standards of European countries situated in climate zones close to Estonia, and other guidance materials, if conditions for safe traffic were created thereby. “In order to look for possibilities to achieve a maximum result in the situation of limited resources, the Road Administration has studied the practices of a number of different countries over the years. Often, Swedish standards, which ensure traffic safety at the level of Nordic countries, are used to design roads in Estonia,” Simson said. She explained that, in designing Tartu highway, the widths of lanes and hard shoulders set out in the guidance materials concerning road design that were in force in Sweden were the basis in choosing the cross-section of the road. “The width of 3.5 metres for lanes and 2 metres for the hard shoulder will enable to increase the seasonal speed limit analogously to Aruvalla–Kose section,” the minister explained. She added that the guidance materials on the design of areas adjacent to a safe road, prepared by the board of the directors general of European road administrations, set out information on the shoulder widths used in various countries. The summary in question also reveals that a shoulder with a width of 2 metres is sufficient in the case of this solution.
Simson also referred to the possibility based on expediency, pointed out by experts of Tallinn University of Technology, of reducing the lane width by 25 centimetres to 3,5 instead of the current 3,75, and to 3,25 instead of the current 3,5, at highway speeds. “That would allow reducing the construction costs, without impairing traffic safety,” Simson noted.
The minister explained that as the traffic loads were smaller at present, it was possible to forgo the uppermost asphalt layer and to construct it when the traffic load required it. Thus the postponement of the construction of the uppermost asphalt concrete layer means essentially construction in stages. This in turn allows using road management funds more purposefully. In the minister’s words, the construction to be established corresponded to the current loads, and the construction of the upper asphalt layer in the future would not cause the road to sink today.
Simson referred to the audit carried out by the National Audit Office on how the quality of Estonian roads could be raised and traffic safety on Estonian roads could be raised, while at the same time doing it as sustainably as possible. It can be seen in this audit that the experts of Tallinn University of Technology have pointed out various expedient solutions. One of them is construction of the upper layer in stages. “So that if we did not have to count money at all in road construction, if it was possible to realise the ideal programme, then undoubtedly these roads would be constructed at least to the extent of the main highways, in three directions and in 2 + 2 width at once. Unfortunately, even the construction of a four-lane road until Mäo does not yet have half of the financial coverage at the moment,” the minister said.
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