Repairs Clog Petersburg Streets
- By Vladimir Kovalyov
- Apr. 25 2000 00:00
ST. PETERSBURG -- The first days of warm weather may be welcome to many St. Petersburg residents, but they are proving a real pain for those who get around town by car.
The city center has been the scene of innumerable traffic jams over the last week, as roads have been cut off to enable last-minute repairs to be carried out on some of the more potholed areas.
While this is undoubtedly a nuisance to car owners, City Hall officials have pleaded for patience, saying it is better to put up with the inconvenience than for the city "to be found wanting" in the eyes of visitors expected to attend the 2000 Ice Hockey World Championship, which begins at the end of this month.
The road-repair season normally begins when the average nighttime temperature rises above zero degrees Celsius and stops in the fall when the temperature falls below minus five, according to federal regulations.
Officials at the City Roads Committee say that over 5 million square meters of roads are due to be repaired or constructed in St. Petersburg this year, including the first 22-kilometer stretch of the St. Petersburg Ring Road.
This total surpasses the 1999 amount by around 1.5 million square meters, and City Hall is planning to spend nearly twice the money spent last year - about 2.7 billion rubles ($94 million).
Most of the repairs taking place at the moment are in the city center, and officials candidly admit that this is largely for the benefit of foreign visitors.
"A lot of the work is being done in preparation for the hockey championship," said Alexander Ionkov, head of the local State Traffic Safety Inspectorate.
"The traffic jams are not our responsibility, but we have to understand that we are being presented to tourists as the face of the country."
Renovation of Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa was completed in just a few days last week. Mamir Ismailov, a road specialist working on another construction site, said the techniques being employed are very simple.
"We cut off the old asphalt, but only part of it," he said. "The lower level, which we leave untouched, is solid enough and holds the new asphalt very well. We guarantee that the road will stay in good condition for at least three years."
Work on Birzhevaya Ploshchad near Dvortsovy Most, the bridge leading to Palace Square, was nearly completed Monday, "so the situation there is going to be a bit easier for drivers," promised Vladimir Kuznetsov, a spokesman for the roads committee. Repairs on the bridge itself caused havoc earlier this month, jamming the embankment during rush hour.
Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya was partially closed, leaving just one lane, "in order to prepare it for the championship."
"I am a driver myself and, of course, everything that is going on drives me mad, too. But what can we do? We have to be patient, because there is not much time left [before the hockey tournament]," Kuznetsov said.
Alexander Afanasiyev, spokesman for Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, said the governor understood the situation, but that "everything must be completed in time" nonetheless.
"We tried working at night, but we received too many complaints from residents who said the noise kept them awake," said Afanasiyev. "So we were forced to [switch to daytime]."
But the rushed repairs may not give the "new" roads a long life, after all. The road next to the new ice-hockey stadium at Prospekt Bolshevikov, which was also fixed in a hurry, now appears to be buckling and sagging.
"There have been some mistakes, because the ground is not very solid or because workers did not follow all the rules of road construction," said Sergei Shevelyov, head of the construction company Vozrozhdeniye.
"We will, of course, correct all the mistakes. We are contracted to do this according to the agreement we have with City Hall."
The road companies involved in the recent flurry of activity have had to guarantee a certain life span for the areas for which they are responsible. If a company's work does not last the agreed time, it must make fresh repairs at its own expense.
Appeals for patience are falling largely on deaf ears, however.
"When I am driving, I can only sit and curse," said local Yabloko party member Boris Vishnevsky. "They have dug up everything there is to dig. It is impossible to drive at all. I have never seen this kind of mess in a European city."