Tallinn shelves main street project

Tallinna tulevane peatänav võiks välja näha selline.

PHOTO: Linnafoorum

There seems to be no quick and favorable solution in sight regarding the Tallinn main street project as opposing sides keep criticizing each other’s approach. Mayor Mihhal Kõlvart believes the city should tackle other infrastructure projects first, while authors of the main street project believe the initial plan should be taken forward, with corrections in mind.

An analysis ordered by the city and carried out by K-Projekt found 20 major and minor issues with the plan. Two critical problems were highlighted.

The winning project’s mobility expert Marek Rannala said the team would gladly consider proposals in K-Projekt’s analysis. “Nothing is perfect!” he said.

The traffic analysis published on Wednesday suggests that the current main street solution would obstruct and slow down public transport flow. Instead of working with proposals, Tallinn city government decided to shelve the entire project for the time being.

Viru Square. The geometry of the Viru Square intersection was found to be part of the problem as it cannot ensure conflict-free movement between public transport and motor vehicles. The analysis finds that the current solution restricts ordinary traffic as it would be impossible to move from Narva rd. to Pärnu rd. directly.

Rannala said that while the analysis has not reached him yet, the concept of the Viru intersection was designed to resemble that of Hobujaama intersection. This means that pedestrians would be able to cross the intersection from any direction at certain intervals as motor vehicle traffic is brought to a complete halt.

“If traffic stops altogether for a moment, you can be sure you won’t be hit by a vehicle. There will be a moment of silence where you can feel like a human being again,” he explained.

Pronksi bus stop. Regarding the Pronksi street bus stop solution, the analysis by K-Projekt finds that buses headed downtown cannot fit in the stop if there is more than one and end up blocking the intersection of Jõe and Narva rd.

Rannala has a simple solution: “That can be fixed with the help of traffic lights.” The light should not turn green before the first bus has left the stop.

The mobility expert said that one solution would be to change public transport schedules by scattering them as was recently done in Tartu. This would help avoid situations where more than one bus arrives at the stop simultaneously.

Slowing it down. The analysis concludes that public transport would be rendered slower and that the main street area could only handle 25 percent of current traffic if the plan remains unchanged.

Former Tallinn chief architect Endrik Mänd said that the aim of the project is not to cater to motor vehicle traffic in recent volumes. He said that congestion is a normal phenomenon in cities and one that cannot be avoided.

Mänd said that traffic jams cannot be eradicated by building wider roads because it will make using a car more convenient and result in more people driving. The only solution is for people to use different modes of transport for covering varying distances. This would mean walking, cycling or using public transport for shorter trips and driving when more ground needs to be covered. “The precondition for that is making pedestrian traffic convenient,” he said.

New model. Last year, Tallinn wanted a citywide traffic model to be drawn up and offered the job to the main street project team that turned it down.

Rannala said the team suggested the city not waste time on something like that. It would be possible to use EU subsidies until 2023, whereas construction would have to begin by 2021 at the latest. The city stood its ground and ordered the analysis from K-Projekt.

Three necessary projects. Just like Rannala, Mänd also finds that proposals made by K-Project are justified and could be implemented and does not understand the city government’s reluctance.

The former city architect said it should be considered how to move transit out of the city center, but that doesn’t mean other projects should take precedent. Mayor Kõlvart has said that is just what the doctor ordered: to first construct a tram line to the port area, the Estonia tunnel and an extension of Rävala boulevard.

Kõlvart told Postimees that city traffic forms a whole one part of which affects all the others, which is something former city architect Mänd should know. The mayor said that because the main street has reduced throughput, traffic needs to be rerouted that can be done by adding an extension to Rävala. Kõlvart could not say with certainty when the city will return to the main street project but suggested it could be in 2023.