TALLINN - Where residents of Saaremaa and the Laaneranna municipality on Estonia's mainland are in favor of the establishment of a road link, such as a bridge or a tunnel between the mainland and the island of Muhu, residents of the latter rather are opposed it, it appears from a survey commissioned by the Estonian Road Administration.
At present, ferry services connect Muhu with the mainland, whereas the connection further on to Saaremaa, Estonia's biggest island, is provided by a causeway between Muhu and Saaremaa.
According to the findings of the survey, 68 percent of residents of Saaremaa, 37 percent of residents of Muhu and 66 percent of residents of the Laaneranna municipality are in favor or rather in favor of the establishment of a permanent road link.
Among entrepreneurs, the respective ratios are 77 percent, 46 percent and 62 percent.
Those definitely against the establishment of a road link made up 12 percent among residents of Saaremaa, 39 percent among residents of Muhu and eight percent among residents of Laaneranna municipality.
Residents of Saaremaa and the Laaneranna municipality found the impact of a standing connection on local development to be positive, as it would allow for crossing the strait round the clock, solve the problem of queues during the high season, improve road safety through reducing stress on the road, and facilitate business.
Residents of Muhu meanwhile find the positive impacts to be somewhat more subdued, in particular as they would undermine the island character of the region. Muhu residents also give less credit to the assumption that a permanent road link would bring new residents to the islands.
In most cases, a bridge is talked about in the context of a permanent link between the mainland and Muhu. Should it be impossible to build a bridge to Muhu due to planning restrictions, 40 percent of residents of Saaremaa, 75 percent of residents of Muhu and 54 percent of residents of the Laaneranna municipality would prefer to abandon the plan for a road link.
The option of having a tunnel built instead is supported by 50 percent of residents of Saaremaa, 17 percent of residents of Muhu and 25 percent of residents of the Laaneranna municipality, as well as by 65 percent of business operators in Saaremaa, 38 percent in Muhu and 38 percent in the Laaneranna municipality.
If a permanent connection is to be built, 58 percent of residents of Saaremaa, 67 percent of residents of Muhu and 45 percent of residents of the Laaneranna municipality would not be prepared to pay more for the crossing than the current ferry fare.
Those ready to pay more made up 34 percent among respondents in Saaremaa, 26 percent in Muhu and 38 percent in Laaneranna municipality.
In the course of the survey, 445 residents of Saaremaa, 207 residents of Muhu and 405 residents of the Laaneranna municipality, along with respectively 100, 50 and 50 business operators from the same regions were interviewed.
The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications are to introduce matters related to the potential road link with the two islands to the Cabinet in March.