Disagreements Delay Westfjords Road Project

 In Nature & Travel, News, Politics

A road project in the Westfjords which has been stuck in the pipes for years could face further delays, RÚV reports. The local council of Reykhólahreppur is to decide between several proposals for a new road through Gufudalssveit early next year. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration says if the council’s decision is not in line with theirs, the project could go back to the drawing board.

Locals “held hostage”

As the new road is to lie within Reykhólahreppur, its local council must choose between proposals for the specific route. Their decision, however, affects nearby municipalities greatly. Around 1,300 people live in the regions of Vesturbyggð and Tálknafjarðarhreppur, west of the proposed road. “Here we don’t have paved roads in either direction, neither north nor south, and our experience is a bit like we’re being held hostage,” says Bjarnveig Guðbrandsdóttir, chairperson of the local council of Tálknafjarðarhreppur. She says it’s disappointing that the municipality of Reykhólahreppur isn’t cooperating with its neighbours, who are in agreement with the Road and Coastal Administraiton on which route would be best for the road. “People have just gotten very tired and angry because we just don’t sit at the same table as our fellow countrymen,” she stated, saying the delays affect locals’ quality of life.

Weighing the options

The municipality of Reykhólahreppur commissioned a report last month to compare various proposals based on cost and impact, following a recommendation from the National Planning Agency. The report concluded that the so-called “Route R,” through Reykhólar, is the superior option, not the so-called “Route Þ-H” through Teigsskógur, which the Road and Coastal Administration planned to construct. The results of the report are to be presented to residents at a town hall meeting tomorrow, and the municipality is set to choose between the options early next year.

Dissent could cause delay

The Road and Coastal Administration considers Route Þ-H through Teigsskógur the best option when considering safety, affordability, and shortening of routes. The proposal is also fully funded in the government’s proposed transportation plan for the next four years. If the council of Reykhólarreppur votes against the route next month, however, the entire project could go back to the drawing board.

Road and Coastal Administration Director Bergþóra Þorkelsdóttir says if the council votes for Route R instead, the administration would not be able to carry out the project. “We do not have permission to construct a route that is less safe and more expensive than the one that is best for the purpose,” she stated. While the report does not consider Route R to be less safe than Route Þ-H, the Road and Coastal Administration believes it would cost around ISK 4 billion ($32.6m/€28.7m) more to complete.

According to transportation law, if the municipality were to choose Route R against the recommendations of the Road and Coastal Administration, they would be saddled with funding the difference in cost. “You don’t need a wise man to see that Reykhólarhreppur won’t pay the difference between these projects according to the currently available data on costs,” said Bergþóra. In that case, she adds, the government may have to step in as arbitrator.

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