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Building new roads is waste of time if old ones still gridlocked – Moscow mayor

Published time: October 29, 2010 04:01
Edited time: October 29, 2010 04:01

The new head of Moscow has outlined a general plan for tackling the longstanding issue of the capital’s disastrous traffic.

Surprisingly enough for many Muscovites, instead of hurling into large-scale road construction, Sergey Sobyanin suggested first putting the old roads into the order.

“We need to allocate funds in such a way that all construction projects are finished on – or better, ahead of – time,” the mayor was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “All additional resources should be spent in the following order: parking spaces, public transport, and only then road construction.”

Among the most urgent measures, Sobyanin mentioned building new toll parking lots and imposing stricter punishment for illegal parking.

Such a decision was prompted by an excursion Sobyanin took recently around the busiest streets of Moscow during rush hour. Even the mayor’s license plates and special signals did not help Sobyanin’s motorcade make it through the capital’s Garden and Boulevard Rings fast enough.

“Look at what is happening in the city center,” the mayor told his colleagues at a meeting devoted to the traffic situation in the capital. “Cars are parked in two rows. What’s the use of building new roads if we can’t bring the old ones to order? It is absurd.”

At a recent meeting with the Transport Ministry, the Moscow mayor suggested a set of “extraordinary measures… to bring the situation in order,” among them boosting public transport, keeping freight traffic away from the city and closer cooperation with the Moscow region.

The mayor claims that now he is urgently dealing with underpasses that will help unclog the roads – 50 are already built, another 112 are being constructed.

Sobyanin also believes that Moscow needs an intelligent system of traffic control, like those found in other countries. Currently, there are 2,050 traffic lights in the capital, but only 300 of them are under central control.

“In five years, no one was investing money in this sector,” Sobyanin said.

Even before his nomination, Sobyanin claimed that one of his major aims as mayor would be cutting the Gordian knot of Moscow gridlocks. Back then, he promised to set up a special fund for transportation projects as “current funds were too small for the problems the city was facing.” Sobyanin also planned to proceed with Luzhkov’s projects, such as the extension of the Leningrad highway and the fourth transportation ring.

Sobyanin’s “no new roads” initiative got a mixed response from the country’s specialists.

The head of the Genplan Institute, Sergey Tkachenko, believes that if the new roads are not constructed, the Russian capital will inevitably face a transportation collapse in some 10 or 15 years, Interfax reported. In order to avoid it, Tkachenko said, Moscow needs to double the present number of roads.

“A large metropolis like Moscow cannot exist with a road surface of just 8% of the city's total area,” Maksim Petrov, president of National Guild of Town Planners, told RT.

”Nowhere else in the world is there a situation like this,” Petrov said. “The minimum should be 20%. Areas designated for road building back in 1971 are today covered with buildings. This happened because of the ‘investment greediness’ of Moscow's authorities. So probably something needs to be demolished, raised above ground or dug underground. But with this density of road network, the problem will remain.”

Other specialists, however, support the new mayor’s plan.

“The Moscow mayor is right: before building anything new, we must use what we already have,” Aleksandr Shumsky, head of the Moscow Center for Fighting Traffic Jams, was quoted as saying by the Kommersant newspaper. “Currently, more than 30 percent of Moscow roads are not in use. When we ask the traffic police to perform some minor changes – such as altering the regime of traffic lights at some intersections – it takes years. This is the problem that should be tackled first.”

At a meeting devoted to Moscow traffic difficulties, President Dmirty Medvedev said that he is taking the Moscow traffic problem under his control.