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Bridge over congested waters discussed

Jan 10, 2014
From wire reports, VILNIUS

The rising shipping traffic in Klaipeda's port raises the discussion on the necessity of a bridge to be built to the Curonian Spit, reports ELTA. On Thursday, Jan. 9, a working group on the construction of a bridge to the Curonian Spit, and the evaluation of alternatives to the eviction of Lithuanian company Smiltynes Perkela from Klaipeda Port, established by the Minister of Transport and Communications Rimantas Sinkevicius, held a meeting.

Chair of the working group is deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Vladislavas Kondratovicius. The working group is made of the representatives of the Ministry of the Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Environment, the Municipality of Klaipeda city, the company Smiltynes Perkela, the Municipality of Neringa city and several other institutions.

Kondratovicius highlighted that the main objective was to clarify whether the bridge was a necessity. According to the chair of the working group, there was a need to hear as many opinions as possible.

According to Klaipeda Port's director general Arvydas Vaitkus, there was no need for a bridge because it only indicated problems which would be faced in the future.

"The main future problem would be the restrictions on movement of ferries of the Smiltynes Perkela company. We should take into consideration that the cars waiting for a ferry could obstruct the traffic in the city (..). At the moment, it is difficult to say because there is no project arranged, but I think that the bridge will pay for itself in 7-12 years," said Vaitkus.

Representative of the Transport and Road Research Institute Agnius Stonys said that the drawbridge to Curonian Spit was to cost 165 million litas (47 million euros), while one without a drawbridge would be 210 million litas. Taking into consideration other things, the total sum was to reach 168 - 227 million litas. According to Stonys, the bridge would be useful and would pay itself off; however, a lot of legal documentation would have to be changed because, from the perspective of the environment, it is impossible to build the bridge at the moment.

According to Director of the Protected Areas and Landscape Department of the Ministry of Environment Vidmantas Bezaras, the message of the Director General of Smiltynes Perkela Darius Butvydas is that the company was to launch a high-speed ferry for passengers and bicyclists from Klaipeda city to Nida city in the short run was very joyful.

"We have the commitments to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); moreover, none of the territory planning documents projects the construction of a bridge. There would be a need to change the entire legal basis and the territory planning documents," said Bezaras.

According to Chairperson of Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO Romas Pakalnis, UNESCO would not understand Lithuania if the country built a bridge. Pakalnis highlighted that it would seem as if Lithuania was just pretending that it cares about the Curonian Spit, which is included in the UNESCO list, by building a bridge.

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