The EU's Northern Dimension Fund has granted 200,000 euros to Russia to draw up a plan for a new route between Vyborg and the busy Nuijamaa border crossing point, some 25 km from Lappeenranta, eastern Finland. This means that nuts-and-bolts design of the road can now begin after about a decade of discussion.
The present road between Vyborg, Russia and Nuijamaa was originally intended as a service road for the cross-border Saimaa Canal, but has been gradually improved over the years. The road is in decent condition, but is winding and narrow in some parts. Cars regularly drive above the speed limit on the road, and there have been a number of fatal accidents in recent years.
Roads director Jyrki Karhula of the South-East Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) tells Yle that the financing deal was signed with Russian officials at the end of November.
Karhula predicts however that it will take at least four years before the new stretch of roadway will be completed, so in 2021 at the earliest.
Last March, three people were killed and several others hurt in a bus crash on the canal access road.
Buses banned for now
The present road between the city of Vyborg and the Nuijamaa Border Guard post is on land alongside the canal, which Finland leases from Russia. The new road is to be outside of this area, so maintenance of it will become the responsibility of Russia.
Just over a week ago, Russia banned buses from the current road after officials decided that it was too dangerous for them. The ban is to remain in effect until at least the end of March.
As a result, most buses have started used roads from Vyborg to Svetogorsk (formerly the Finnish town of Enso) and from Vyborg to the Vaalimaa border point, some 80 km to the south of Nuijamaa.
Hundreds of shoppers from both Vyborg and St Petersburg come to Lappeenranta and other towns in Finnish South Karelia on a daily basis.
Nuijamaa is Finland's busiest eastern border point, used by more than 210,000 people last month.