Russia’s Crumbling Roads ‘Connected With Our Poverty’

Federal road leading to Yakutsk, as of 2006. Source: Fishki.netRussian automobile owners will have to pay nearly $1000 a year in taxes if the country’s crumbling transportation infrastructure is to be maintained – and that before plans for any new construction. Such was the conclusion announced at Monday’s press conference by Director Alexander Sarychev of the Scientific Research Institute (NII) for Transportation and Road Maintenance.

According to Sarychev, the fact that emergency repairs are often needed for unsafe bridges and roads in Russia “is connected with our poverty.” Even before any new roads are built, he said, routine maintenance of the existing transportation system would require one trillion rubles a year – about $32.2 billion.

“At the very height of development, in 2008, 300 billion ($9.67 billion) was spent on repairs and 270 billion ($8.7 billion) on construction. Automobile owners’ share of this sum is 200 billion ($6.5 billion),” said Sarychev.

The director went on to say that the management system for road repair and construction itself needs to be modernized. As an example, Sarychev noted Leningradsky Highway, which has been suffering daily since June 26 from traffic jams that stretch on for miles at a time due to emergency roadwork. The traffic has been particularly problematic due to the fact that the highway leads to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Moreover, the construction of Moscow’s central ring road, or TsKAD, was “mistaken,” said Sarychev, proposing instead that roads be built that stretch from one side of capital to the other to solve the region’s transportation problems. Raising the number of roads in Moscow thrice over and reworking the rules for automobile usage in the city would also be a partial solution to the problem, he said.

The cost of such new roads would approximately fall between $15-55 billion per lane, the same as they cost in Europe and the United States, said the director.

Russia has long suffered from a lack of proper transportation infrastructure and the deterioration of what has already been built. Critics blame the government for failing to use burgeoning oil and natural gas revenues to invest in a modern, country-wide infrastructure. Not a single highway or expressway has been built in Russia over the past two decades, and the smaller roads that have been constructed are very few. China, which is commonly given as a comparison, has laid more than 40,000 thousand miles of high-volume roadways over the same amount of time.

A telling photo essay of the single federal road that leads to the Siberian city of Yakutsk can be viewed by clicking here.