Seaside resort benefits from big bypass
A newly completed 20 km bypass to the north of Riga is Latvia’s biggest road-building project since the country regained its independence in September 1991. Known as the Saulkrasti Bypass, it forms part of the Via Baltica – a key 670 km road linking the capital cities of Poland and Estonia.
“Thanks to the bypass I gain up to half an hour per day when driving in both directions. In the past, Saulkrasti was a real obstacle for me: I was literally forced to crawl at 50 km/h and could not even think about overtaking. The situation has improved dramatically.”
Māris Petrošins, driver from Skulte
The bypass diverts traffic around the small coastal town of Saulkrasti. As intended, the new road has already reduced much of the through traffic and noise pollution that long plagued the town. It has also cut journey times for the expanding number of international trucks that use the A1 road between Riga and Tallinn.
A brand new road
Located some 45 km north of Riga, the capital of Latvia, Saulkrasti has been a popular health and tourist resort since the 19th century and is best known for its beautiful sandy beaches and unspoilt natural environment. The town has depended for decades on the A1, the only main road serving local, transit and international traffic.
However local residents found it increasingly difficult and dangerous to cross this road, as both car and truck traffic grew. From the 1990s, many also complained of getting stuck in long queues of heavy trucks heading to countries north and south of Latvia.
The Saulkrasti Bypass running from Lilaste to Skulte was opened in September 2007, after two years of intensive construction work divided into three stages. Some 11 metres wide and 20.4 km long, the new dual carriageway forms part of the Via Baltica. It received 36% of its funding from the EU and the rest from Latvia.
Speedier international traffic
Besides the Saulkrasti Bypass, the project also resulted in reconstruction of a part of the existing A1 road. This 14.8 km stretch now includes 15 bridges and overpasses, four railway crossings, pedestrian and bicycle roads, lighting of complex traffic junctions, street lighting, fences, noise-protection walls and bus stops.
The project as a whole has increased the safety of pedestrians and improved traffic safety in Saulkrasti, diverting traffic around the town and allowing vehicles to cover this part of the route faster. The bypass has also helped to split vehicles into local and bypass traffic, the latter mainly made up of huge international trucks cruising up and down the Via Baltica.