This analysis was developed under the “Drumuri bune pentru Chisinau” project, funded by the European Union and the Government of Estonia through the program “Facilitating Regional Civil Actions in the Neighborhood”, managed by the Open Society Policy Association (PASOS) and co-funded by Embassy of the Netherlands in the project “Strengthening the rule of law and democracy: the contribution of civil society” through the “Responsibility Fund Program”. Opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the position of the financiers.
Chisinau municipality concentrates about 70% of Moldova’s economy and it is the urban agglomeration with the densest road network while the state of road infrastructure in the city is under expectations. Every day drivers are facing road pits, traffic jams, lack of parking space, and a bothering picture of the pedestrians – a miserable pedestrian infrastructure.
Despite the fact that every year, significant amount of money is provided for the restoration and maintenance of the city roads, the general state of road and pedestrian infrastructure is not improving.Every year Chisinau authorities allocate over 100 million MDL for roads maintenance and reparation. In 2018 only, a bit more than 125 million MDL have been budgeted for this purpose.
According to the municipal authorities, the main cause of low quality of Chisinau’s roads’ infrastructure is its insufficient granted funding. However, a detailed analysis of the municipal roads management shows that the problem is more about the efficiency of money spending than about the amount of money.
Analyzing the budget structure of Chisinau’s municipality, we can notice that over the past years, most of the financial resources allocated for urban roads’ maintenance were used to carry out the current restoring works: pits filling and potholes patching, clogging of fissures and cracks, fixing ridges, grooves and edge breaks, curbs and asphalt layer replacement and the renewal of road markings. Meanwhile, for capital repairs much less money is spent.
Taking into account the ongoing worsening of the city’s roads’ infrastructure, we can conclude that the practice of allocating funds for potholes and cracks fixing and the random partial reparation of the streets is neither efficient nor sustainable. The potholes’ patching should not be seen as a solution to the problem of road surface quality, but only as a short-term intervention, in order to prevent road accidents. Modern urban planning practices show that the urban road infrastructure development, restoration and maintenance should be tackled through the concept of urban mobility, which means the possibility to meet the need for people to move through the city and its surroundings. Urban streets are the main tool for ensuring urban mobility. Nevertheless, their role is not limited to being a support for the motorized traffic. They must ensure a balanced development of all relevant modes of transport and lead to change towards cleaner and more sustainable ways of transportation.
A big part of total trips made in the city consist of trips on short and middle distance (1-3 km) and can be made by foot or using a bicycle. That is why the structure and quality of the urban streets should be friendly and comfortable for walking and cycling.These two modes of transportation could considerably ease the pressure of motorized transport on road infrastructure, reducing the road dammage and saving money on road maintenance.Therefore, the road maintenance and repairing should not be limitted solely to the infrastructure for private motorized means of transportation (road surface, parking places, intersections, road lights) but should take into account the whole spectre of mobility necessities, expecially the pedestrian infrastructure, public transport and cycling infrastructure.
The modernization of Chisinau’s streets according to these needs can be made through: the resizing and replaning of roads and sidewalks, creating the on-street paralell parking pockets, provision of bikelanes and dedicated public transport lanes, removing physical obstacles on the sidewalks, renovation of green lines, modernization of street light and rainwater evacuation system.
Such a modernization of urban streets requires a strategic planning of street repair and renovation process and stop of the current practice of streets chaotic repair. To achieve this, a few essential steps need to be taken:
- Elaboration of a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of Chisinau municipality with the provision of the role and functionality of each street.
- Elaboration of a Street Design Guide for Chisinau based on the recommendations and practices of the European cities and countries, and its adoption as a basic document for any capital reparation and modernization of the urban streets and roads.
- Exhaustive assessment of the technical condition of each street and assessment of modernization costs for each street. Each street must have a record of the status, work that was done, and the results of periodic inspection of its condition.
- Development and approval of a dedicated budget for Chisinau street modernization and identification of possible sources of co-financing. Implementation of a multi-annual planning of investments in road and pedestrian infrastructure.
- Provision of a maximum transparency of the road maintenance, repair and modernization process, and a constant external audit of the budgets allocated to this process.
In the case of such an approach, the quality and comfort of the municipal streets can be radically improved. A complex street modernization program would justify both the increase of local taxes and the demand for larger allocations from the state budget, due to the fact that Chisinau is a capital city and concentrates more than 1/3 of the number of cars registered in the country and more more than ¼ of the population of RM.However, nowadays, the ratio of capital investments (on roads, new traffic lights, illumination, etc.) to current maintenance/repairing works is about 128 million to 221 million. This ratio reflects an obvious imbalance. This imbalance is the result of the lack of an efficient public policy in road and pedestrian infrastructure development. If things remain unchanged, we will have worse roads and sidewalks year after year and rising costs for current restoration and maintenance, more accidents, higher traffic jams, rising costs for vehicle reparation and maintenance, bigger pollution and worse ecological status in Chisinau.
To improve this situation, first of all, we emphasize the need for strategic planning of capital construction and modernization of roads and streets in Chisinau. And this strategic planning must be based on the purpose of modernizing the streets of the city, based on the real needs of urban mobility and urban planning principles, focusing on accessibility and quality of life, sustainability, economic viability, social equity, health and environmental quality. Secondly, additional sources need to be identified for effective funding of this program.
For the Romanian version of the article click HERE.