FERRY TALE: Though the prospect of it ever becoming a reality is remote, a Tallinn-Helsinki undersea tunnel would potentially replace the lucrative ferry business that currently handles cross-gulf traffic.
TALLINN - Two political adversaries met on June 29 to discuss a dream-project of connecting Tallinn and Helsinki by tunnel.
Economy Minister Juhan Parts and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, who stepped down as economy minister in March, have been bitter political rivals in the past, but the two set aside differences to hash over a feasibility project for a tunnel that would connect the Finnish and Estonian capitals.
"To throw away ideas that at first glance seem utopian would be irresponsible," Parts, a member of the right-wing Pro Patria/Res Publica Union, told journalists after the meeting.
"The question is how much money," he said, adding that it was impossible to exaggerate the importance of Tallinn in Estonia's economy. "I wouldn't exclude the possibility of building the tunnel."
Savisaar, who heads the center-left Center Party, which is now in opposition in the Riigikogu (parliament), said he had met with Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen a week earlier and that the Finns have good things to say about the project.
"The mayor of Helsinki has an agreement with the transport minister of Finland that, if Tallinn joins the project, then a feasibility study could begin in the nearest future," he said.
Parts promised to take up the issue with his Finnish colleague at their next meeting in September.
The economy minister said the state has 8 billion kroons (500 million euros) to divide between Estonia's municipalities and that any decision to use part of that money for transportation infrastructure must be made by the beginning of September.
Parts and Savisaar also discussed Tallinn's other large transport project: a transport ring around Tallinn, rerouting railroad traffic away from the downtown area, and a tram line connecting Lasnamae and the airport.
Tallinn Deputy Mayor Jaanus Mutli said that a feasibility study on the Lasnamae project should be completed by October. That project, which will take five years to complete, will draw on EU funds as well.
The two men will meet again at the end of August to discuss building a ring road around Tallinn.