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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Billionaire Gets a Shot at Fixing Traffic Jams

City Hall appears to be fed up with a billionaire's complaints about Moscow traffic jams, so it is offering him the job of getting rid of them.

First Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov has sent State Duma Deputy Alexander Lebedev, one of Mayor Yury Luzhkov's fiercest critics, a letter inviting him to head a new city department for strategic road development, according to a copy of the letter published on Lebedev's Livejournal blog.

The offer came, Biryukov wrote, in connection with Lebedev's "numerous announcements in the media about current problems" in how the city is run that are "clearly patriotic" in nature.

The department would be allocated 25 million rubles ($1 million), and a newspaper published by Lebedev, Probka, or Traffic, would be made an official City Hall publication, the letter says.

Biryukov wrote that Lebedev could use his "creative potential for the good of your hometown, whose prosperity you so tirelessly declare your concern for."

Lebedev has repeatedly accused city authorities of corruption, making such allegations the centerpiece of his 2003 mayoral bid. He finished second to Luzhkov in the election, garnering a meager 9 percent of the vote.

Reached by telephone Friday, Biryukov's spokesman, Igor Perganmenshchik, said City Hall had received no official response from Lebedev.

"There have been no official discussions or negotiations," he said.

Perganmenshchik brushed off suggestions that Biryukov's letter was a joke. "This is an absolutely serious offer," he said.

Lebedev, in a post on his blog, described the offer as "outstanding" and said he was "ready to begin solving" the city's traffic problems if City Hall was serious about its offer.

The 25 million rubles "aren't really necessary," Lebedev wrote. "I'm willing to pay 10 times that amount myself just to get rid of this traffic nightmare in which we all live."

Coming up with that kind of money should not be a problem for Lebedev, a Duma deputy with the pro-Kremlin A Just Russia party. He is the country's 27th richest person, with a net worth of $3.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Lebedev, a former Soviet intelligence officer, is the majority owner of National Reserve Corporation, which owns about 30 percent of Aeroflot.

Neither Lebedev nor his spokesman, Artyom Artyomov, was available for comment Friday.

More than 3 million cars are registered in Moscow, 12 times more than 15 years ago. Officials say the number of cars on Moscow roads is growing by 100,000 per year. Every day, around 200,000 cars clog the streets, and some traffic experts predict that by 2012, when the number of cars on the road every day hits 300,000, the system will simply collapse.

At least twice over the past year, professional sports teams in Moscow have been forced to abandon their vehicles and take the metro to games.