In the field of maintenance of state roads it is necessary to outline priorities and leave only main roads with high traffic intensity and the most important regional roads in the hands of the state, said Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits during a conference on Friday, 5 April.
«It is wrong for the state to answer for every gravel road. We need to set a goal to make sure Latvian state, like Finland, owns 17% of roads instead of the current 28%,» said Linkaits.
He stressed that handing over less important roads in the hands of municipalities would help resolve the lasting problem of the shortage of funding. Linkaits reminded that many previous governments in Latvia had promised to resolve the issue of insufficient funding for roads. In the end, however, no solution was found.
«We have as much money as we get from taxes. Let’s not kid ourselves with promises of diverting excise tax on fuel for roads – this has never been the case. We need other solutions,» said Linkaits.
The minister also stressed that preparations are underway to open road maintenance market in 2021, because the established monopoly in the industry does not contribute to development.
Jānis Lange, chairman of road maintenance company Latvian State Roads, said that in many countries the state has direct control over approximately 5% of roads. For example, the Swedish state answers for 15,000 km of roads, whereas Latvian state answers for more than 20,000 km.
«Last year we had identified approximately 4,000 km of roads we would be prepared to hand over to municipalities. So far only 14 km have been handed over to municipalities,» said Lange.
He adds that reduction of finances from the EU structure funds could potentially help start reforms in the road industry. ‘Reforms begin where money runs out. Lithuania and Estonia are twice as less dependent on EU funds than Latvia,’ said Lange.