Editorial: somebody stop these Mr Beans from building us roads

PHOTO: Urmas Nemvalts

Why do these roads of ours become bad (so fast)? Again and again, we the users and the car owners have to pose this question. By media, the ball is passed to scientists, to builders, to the officialdom. The answers vary according to who is saying, and no doubt the reasons are many. A standard reply goes like we’re not so rich as to ensure all-out excellent road repairs. In other words, there ain’t no money and that’s it.

Sure, we couldn’t spend such large money as the richer neighbours in Europe. The more the reason, then, to see that we use every euro effectively. As the proverbial wisdom goes: if, for any reason, money starts to flow into some poor household, the mind spins out of control. As we were reminded by the real estate boom last decade – the pain for some off-handed loan assumers to last for long years to come. Developers got stinking rich while planning was careless and quality of construction outright awful at times.

On October 1st 2010, Mäo saw the grand opening of the «Main Traffic Crossing in Central Estonia». Supervision added, the thing cost over €30m. 79 percent of the money came from EU Cohesion Fund. Soon after, media started to harvest news of poor quality as the holes begun to be patched. Four years later, a Road Administration investigation shows things are more than bad. It’s a scandal. At least partly, wrong use of materials is already proven.

Easy to go about in sackcloth, seek out the guilty and fight the outcome. What we need is go after the causes. And, talking about the causes, Road Administration has reasons to look into the mirror. The Mäo crossing is but one of the large road projects built in Estonia lately. And, as is to be feared, the mistakes are systemic – RA having accepted and approved all these objects.

Indeed, the RA management has done well not to launch witch hunt towards the construction companies nor hastened to the courts. Haste might make matters worse. Should the state lose it on some technicality – and, alas, there are examples of that – taxpayers will pay up. Add the damaged reputation.

Public interest is holes-free driving. Public interest says use the road money better. Also, public interest wants the slothful ones to bear responsibility. But the biggest public interest is to stop a situation where the state lets some Mr Beans make mega money building bad roads – and calls it a nice job.