A comfortable megapolis in perspectives
[b]Minsk to change its appearance by the 2014 IIHF World Championship [/b]Each city faces its own problems: traffic jams, overpopulation and lack of green planting. Minsk is no exception, growing rapidly over the last 65 years; its population has risen from 150,000 to two million. When we consider the requirements of modern standards of living, it’s clear that city designers have serious challenges to solve. They are responsible for up to 30 meters below ground and many metres above. Among the many improvements of recent years, which have truly made a difference?
Each city faces its own problems: traffic jams, overpopulation and lack of green planting. Minsk is no exception, growing rapidly over the last 65 years; its population has risen from 150,000 to two million. When we consider the requirements of modern standards of living, it’s clear that city designers have serious challenges to solve. They are responsible for up to 30 meters below ground and many metres above. Among the many improvements of recent years, which have truly made a difference?
How to ‘free’ an intersection
Loshitsa is one of the most populated and promising suburbs of Minsk, being home to dozens of thousands of residents. Meanwhile, new facilities are being built there, for use by the whole city — such as a large cultural and sports centre, which will host 2014 IIHF World Championship matches. However, it’s not easy to reach this suburb during rush hour; the major traffic artery of Mayakovsky Street has long been ‘overloaded’, being crossed by other main roads. There’s a traffic light at each intersection, so queues rapidly form during peak hours. Instead of 10-12 minutes, the route from the city centre takes much longer.
To solve the problem, Minsk City Executive Committee has decided to significantly reconstruct the motorway, raising it from two to four lanes in each direction, divided by a 3m buffer. Vitally, multilevel traffic interchanges without traffic lights will replace intersections, enabling a constant flow. Pedestrian safety will be ensured via underground walkways while houses sited too near the road, preventing its widening, have now been demolished. Each stage of the improvement works is carefully planned.
The intersection of Mayakovsky and Denisovskaya streets (the latter being Minsk ring road) is to be widened to four lanes in each direction, while being lowered by 4.5m. To achieve this, 150,000 cubic metres of earth is being extracted, to be deposited at the other end of the city, in the suburb of Kamennaya Gorka (currently under construction). Four pedestrian crossings are being built at the traffic interchange. In total, three multilevel traffic interchanges are to be constructed along Mayakovsky Street, giving it a whole new look — particularly at its intersection with Denisovskaya Street. The road will become 16m wide, covering 31,200sq.m (up from 24,800) while its pavements, covered with multi-coloured concrete tiles, will rise in coverage from 3,700 to 15,600sq.m.
The most difficult aspect of the work is relaying all the communication lines below ground. Naturally, there is a tight schedule to adhere to for the interchange, with completion due within 58-61 months. The site should be fully operational by September 2014, according to the original plan; however, city authorities hope to see completion three years ahead of schedule. It is a real possibility.
Three such traffic interchanges are to be built along Mayakovsky Street alone, with reconstruction of the railway bridge (towards Moscow) presenting the biggest challenge, needing to be widened. The interchange is to become a fly-over, saving time and materials while giving the buildings a lighter, more ‘aerial’ appearance. Naturally, the level of construction must be exemplary. This interchange at the intersection of Tashkentskaya Street (another large motorway) and Minsk’s ring road will become the Belarusian capital’s first completely ‘above ground’ interchange, ready in time for the IIHF World Championship.
The second stage will open the way towards a new suburb, currently planned for construction outside Minsk’s ring road. In total, at least ten contemporary traffic interchanges are to be built in Minsk in the coming years. Dozens of additional car parks, new metro stations and lines are planned, allowing traffic congestion to be significantly reduced.
Concrete banks of Nemiga
Nemiga is Minsk’s legendary river, having witnessed bloody battles in ancient times. However, by the 19th century, it had been buried beneath the city. Even now, from time to time, the river brings an unpleasant surprise, flooding pavements during heavy rain. Recently, specialists from Minsk’s Spetsstroy company used the latest technologies to tackle the problem, laying a reinforced concrete pipe of two metres diameter by automated tunnelling. Within the next few years, more works are planned for the Tsentr underground storm drain, preventing future flooding in the centre of Minsk.
The problem is ages old, born of centuries of urban growth and recent layers of asphalt and concrete being laid. The soil can no longer absorb water, and the climate is changing; rain showers are heavier and more frequent. Of course, an underground storm-water system exists — but it is inadequate to the job, needing at least double the capacity. At present, about 50 sites around Minsk remind us of Venice during heavy rain: trolleybuses become waterlogged and people can find themselves knee-deep in water. Such danger appears two or three times a year and, according to specialists, if the necessary measures aren’t taken in time, the situation will only become worse. Meanwhile, flooding carries water directly to the River Svisloch, polluting it with oil products and chemicals and silting it up with sand and dirt. The river is one of Minsk’s greatest landmarks, so must be preserved carefully.
In 2002, Minsk City Executive Committee decided to solve the issue once and for all, opting to build a sewage pipe of greater diameter and more than 12km long, to cross the city of two million people underground. It will be able to tackle rainwater runoff from around factories, ensuring that pollutants are taken to purification facilities — to be constructed beyond Minsk’s ring road. Minsk’s streets will become comfortable in all weathers and the River Svisloch will be saved.
In a heavily populated city, such as task can be solved only by laying pipes via an automated tunnelling system — known as micro-tunnelling. Access hatches are placed every 500-600m, and special reinforced concrete pipes of large diameter are then lowered into the tunnel. Recently, the method was used for a 5km section near central Nezavisimosti Avenue, in three places. Soon, works will begin from Belorusskaya Street to Vesnyanka suburb, securing the whole city centre from flooding. It should be complete by 2018, with major funds allocated for the purpose and the most advanced equipment used. Extra-strong reinforced concrete pipes with a diameter of 1.2m-3.6m are being used. Only a handful of enterprises produce such pipes within the CIS; most of them are used in Minsk. Other cities and countries, particularly those in the Baltic States, are showing interest in similar modernisation of their underground drainage. The export potential is huge — estimated at $2m per year.
Of course, there are many more areas in which Minsk’s infrastructure is being modernised. Over the past few years, a public garden near the National Opera Theatre has been revamped, as have many central streets and public gardens; the volume of such works has increased 6-fold. In the near future, the third stage of the metro will commence, serving several new suburbs. Over 30 new hotels are to be built, while the number of industrial enterprises shall be moved beyond the city boundaries. Minsk aims to remain a world class city while embracing eco-friendliness and all the comforts of modern life.
By Vladimir Yakovlev