Grímsey Ferry Out of Service for 6-8 Weeks

Grímsey

The ferry that connects the 53 residents of Grímsey island to the mainland of Iceland will be out of commission for 6-8 weeks this spring for regular maintenance, RÚV reports. No backup transportation has yet been found to move either people or goods to and from the island during that period. One local city councillor says it is the equivalent of cutting off a mainland town in Iceland from the Ring Road.

Grímsey falls under the municipality of Akureyri, North Iceland. Akureyri Municipal Council has criticised the situation and says the Road and Coastal Administration of Iceland, which owns and operates the Grímsey ferry, has not been keeping residents informed about the situation.

“The thing is that ferry routes are just like Route One [the main highway around Iceland] and we would of course not accept any community being cut off from the main transport artery,” Akureyri Councillor Halla Björk Reynisdóttir stated. The Grímsey ferry is not only used to transport people but also goods, including the fish caught by Grímsey fishermen. Sólveig Gísladóttir of the Road and Coastal Administration’s communication department stated that the organisation is working towards a solution and it should be found and presented to residents by the end of the week.

Grímsey residents have long been calling for a replacement for their island’s ferry. Sæfari, as the current ferry is named, was initially supposed to be used for 10 years but has now been operating for 15. The maintenance to be done on the ferry this coming April and May is meant to extend its lifetime by a few more years.

Public Bus No Longer Stops at Esja Mountain

Esja

Access to one of the Reykjavík capital area’s most popular hiking sites by public transit – Esja mountain – has been severely limited since May 22. The bus stop at the mountain’s base has been closed to Route 57, the main route from the capital area that stopped at the site. There are no concrete plans for the service to be reinstated, Strætó public transport service confirmed to Iceland Review.

While the Reykjavík capital area features many fantastic walking and hiking areas, few are easily accessible by public bus. Previously, Reykjavík residents could hop on Route 57 to reach Esja from Ártún bus terminal. The route runs 11 times per day on weekdays and 7-8 times per day on the weekends.

Last May, however, the Road and Coastal Administration, which operates public bus service outside the capital area, decided to close the bus stop at the base of the mountain to Route 57.

“The reason for the closure is that the buses often have difficulty turning around and re-entering the highway after they have driven up to the stop,” a notice on the Strætó website reads.

Those who hope to reach Esja by public transport can now only do so from the suburb of Mosfellsbær, where they must call in advance to order a special taxi service, available only three times a day. From Reykjavík, the entire trip would take around 1.5 hours (it is a 20-minute drive). The earliest possible arrival time is 3:00 PM.

The Road and Coastal Administration has not yet decided whether Route 57 will begin stopping at Esja once more this winter.

Significant Rainfall in South Iceland May Flood Jökulsá River, Destroy Temporary Bridge

Bridge over Jökulsá in Sólheimasandur

Significant rainfall is expected over the next 24 hours around the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in South Iceland and may cause considerable flooding on the Jökulsá river. The Road and Coastal Administration will be monitoring conditions along the Ring Road and bridges in the vicinity, but it is uncertain whether the temporary bridge crossing the Jökulsá river where it runs through the Sólheimasandur flood plain will withstand rising waters. This per an announcement made by the Road and Coastal Administration on Tuesday night.

Construction is currently underway on a new bridge over the Jökulsá at Sólheimasandur and in the meantime, traffic is being diverted onto a temporary bridge. The administration is currently hard at work deepening the riverbed and making other preparations that will hopefully prevent major flooding. Nevertheless, the temporary bridge may not survive significant water rising. In the event that the temporary bridge becomes impassable, traffic east of Skógar will be redirected onto the new bridge and a system of alternating green lights will allow traffic to travel in both directions.

The Road and Coastal Administration notes that railing has not yet been finished along the new bridge so if it is necessary for travellers to use it, the speed limit will be temporarily reduced as a safety precaution. Drivers are asked to heed any such speed reductions.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for South Iceland and expects heavy rainfall in the entire region, but especially around Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Travellers whose journeys are expected to take them over unbridged rivers are advised to reconsider their travel plans at this time as these rivers may be very difficult to cross or completely impassable.

Updates about road conditions can be found on the Road and Coastal Administration website, here, or by calling 1777 to get the most up-to-date conditions at any time.

Road and Coastal Administration Work All Night to Prevent Route One from Flooding

Employees of the Road and Coastal Administration worked through the night to ensure that rising water levels in the Djúpadalsá river Skagafjörður, North Iceland would not flood Route One (the Ring Road). RÚV reports that breakwaters along a five-kilometre stretch of the road have been damaged. Skagafjörður has received a great deal of rain in recent days and all the rivers in the area are rising.

Road and Coastal workers used bulldozers to try and reinforce breakwaters that were at risk due to rising waters and contain the Djúpadalsá river. Route One also needed fortification, said Stefán Öxndal Reynisson, an inspector with the Road and Coastal Administration in Sauðárkrókur.

“These breakwaters are really damaged for probably close to five kilometres and the only channel leading into the Djúpadalsá river is now just overflowing with stuff after we’d gotten it in pretty good shape when we dredged it for three or four years.”

The extent of the damage has yet to be determined, but it’s estimated that it will cost tens of millions of krónur to rebuild the breakwaters that have been destroyed.

Screenshot, RÚV

Unusual for many rivers to flood at once

Stefán says that usually, only one river floods at once. “But it was just all the rivers yesterday evening and overnight. It didn’t help that the Héraðsvötn river was also full and there was a bit of a bottleneck into the Djúpadalsá river as well.”

There’s still a great deal of water in the rivers, all of which are churning dark and muddy. It’s expected that the Road and Coastal Administration will need to spend a great deal of time reshaping the channel of the Djúpadalsá river so that it will be able to accommodate the next flood. But for now, the sole focus is on keeping the river under control until conditions improve.

“It’s a little colder now, so I’m hopeful that the water level in the river will go down so that we can see what we’ve really got to do here,” said Stefán.

Flashing Red Light to Warn of Dangerous Waves at Reynisfjara

A flashing red light will be installed at Reynisfjara beach in South Iceland to warn visitors of dangerous waves. RÚV reports that the light will be installed within three weeks. Powerful sneaker waves at the beach have been the cause of several fatal accidents, despite signs that warn visitors to keep their distance from the water.

The light will flash yellow or red based on the conditions at the beach. The colour code is based on a wave forecasting system that the Road and Coastal Administration began developing five years ago thanks to a grant from the Tourism Site Protection Fund.

“With [the forecasting system] we can predict with some degree of certainty how the waves will be,” explained Fannar Gíslason, who manages the Road and Coastal Administration’s harbour division. “The risk has been colour-coded green, yellow, and red depending on how much danger is posed by the waves at Reynisfjara.”

The light will be installed by the parking lot and walking path by Reynisfjara and will never be lit green. “There will be a flashing yellow warning light and it will be red when conditions are poor. We’ll have it like that at first, in any case. We’ll see how that goes, whether people notice it.”

In order to determine which wave heights are dangerous to the beach’s visitors, wave data was cross-referenced with police diaries and incident records. According to Fannar, the current forecasting system is in sync with that data.

A camera system will also be set up by the beach to allow authorities to observe the waves visually and calibrate those observations into the forecast.

Road “Bleeding” Creates Dangerous Driving Conditions in West and North Iceland

tjörublæðing road bleeding roads driving

The Road and Coastal Administration warns that severe road bleeding on the Ring Road between Borgarfjörður in West Iceland and Skagafjörður, North Iceland is creating dangerous driving conditions. According to a notice from the Administration, its staff is working to clear the roads of dangerous film that seeps up to the surface of some roads following extreme fluctuations in temperature. Some drivers have complained that their vehicles have sustained costly damages and the Road and Coastal Administration did not react to the issue quickly enough.

The surface film created on roads via bleeding is dangerous to drivers in several ways. It reduces grip on the roads, and it also coats tires and other parts of cars as they drive over it. The material then often dries and falls off the vehicles once more, causing danger on the road or damaging other vehicles nearby, for example by breaking lights. Heavy vehicles are more likely to trigger road bleeding and to sustain damage in such conditions, and the Road and Coastal Administration urges drivers of large vehicles to ensure their tire pressure is not too high as that can trigger more damage.

Drivers who have experienced damage due to road bleeding on Route One are encouraged to fill out a damage report on the Administration’s website. Those requiring cleaning only can contact the Road and Coastal Administration service station nearest to them, or if in Reykjavík call 354 898 3210.

Cheaper Road Surfaces Prone to Bleeding

Not all types of road surfaces suffer from bleeding. Iceland’s busiest roads (in Reykjavík, near Akureyri, and along parts of the Ring Road in South and West Iceland), are covered by asphalt, which does not have this problem. However, laying asphalt is pricey – it can be 3-5 times more expensive than the surface covering used on Iceland’s less-frequented roads. While the types of surface coverings that lead to bleeding are used in many countries around the world, Iceland’s frequent temperature fluctuations make its roads more vulnerable to bleeding.

One driver who spoke to Vísir stated that he contacted the Road and Coastal Administration about the issue on Sunday afternoon but nothing was done until Monday afternoon. The Administration claims it took action as soon as it was informed about the issue.

Road Reopens Following Three Avalanches

Avalanche in Iceland February 2014.

Three avalanches fell on the road between Ísafjörður and Súðavík in the Westfjords yesterday. The avalanches occurred after the road had been closed by police and the Road Administration in consultation with the Icelandic Met Office. The road was reopened this morning, though snow clearing continues.

The road, known as Súðavíkurhlíð, was closed yesterday morning at 8.00am by authorities after considerable snowfall in the area and poor visibility. Though it has been reopened, one section of the road is only a single lane wide. Travellers in the area are asked to be aware and show workers consideration as they continue to clear snow to widen the road.

The avalanche risk level for the area is expected to remain at “considerable danger” for the next several days. Those planning on travelling in the area are asked to stay updated on weather conditions on the Road and Coastal Administration’s website or by calling the information line 1777.

Fast-Track Road Repairs for Nearly Half a Billion

 

Road maintenance projects amounting to nearly half a billion krónur that were scheduled for next year will be moved forward to this year, RÚV reports. Due to delays in other road construction projects, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has decided to shift ISK 430 million ($3.4m/€3m) of this year’s budget to major maintenance projects.

The near half billion “will be primarily used in top layers, new asphalt, because it’s much needed,” stated Magnús Valur Jóhannsson, director of the Administration’s construction department. “This is for the most part on the most traffic-heavy roads here in South Iceland, for example around Selfoss and Biskupstungur, Geysir for example.” Magnús says the Reykjavík capital area has the heaviest traffic in the country and will also see significant repairs, as well as parts of the Reykjanes peninsula. So-called “improvement projects” will be carried out on roads in both Blönduós, North Iceland and the Þingvellir area in South Iceland.

While the reallocation represents a significant amount, it can be noted that the Road and Coastal Administration normally spends around ISK 6 billion ($47.7m/€42.3m) per year on road repairs. “It was of course clear that maintenance needs are much higher than we have the resources to execute, but fortunately we are now adding to that so hopefully that will improve,” Magnús stated.

Westfjords Municipality to Discuss Proposed Road With Minister

Different proposals for a new road in the South Westfjords.

The local council of Reykhólahreppur will likely delay voting between two routes for a new road through Gufudalssveit in the South Westfjords. Council chairman Ingimar Ingimarsson stated on RÚV morning radio today that the municipality would prefer to meet with the Minister of Transport before they make a decision on the controversial issue. The construction of a new road in the region has been stuck in the planning stages for years.

Route disagreement

As the road crosses Reykhólahreppur, its local council has a say in where exactly it will lie. A report commissioned by the council concluded that the so-called “Route R,” through Reykhólar, is superior to the so-called “Route Þ-H” through Teigsskógur, which the Road and Coastal Administration backs. The government’s transportation bill allocates funding for Route Þ-H, projected to be less expensive than Route R. If Reykhólarhreppur votes for Route Þ-H, it is unclear how the construction will be funded.

Ingimar stated he has been requesting a meeting with the Transportation Minister to discuss the issue for months. The meeting has been scheduled for the near future, and thus the council considers it best to postpone voting between routes until after the meeting takes place. The council chairman says he would like to clarify which party has the authority to determine how the project will be funded. “We don’t know that, naturally. The Road and Coastal Administration and many in the Parliamentary Transport Committee have made it clear that they consider that the funding which is now in the [four-year transport plan] is only intended for Route Þ-H. We ask then why we have this planning authority if no decision is taken except that which the Road and Coastal Administration wants. We need to have that clarified by the Minister of Transport.

The Þ-H Route has yet to be approved by the National Planning Agency, which has previously rejected a similar proposal. Ingimar says he expects the agency to reject Route Þ-H, which will bring the project back to square one, “and then what?” he asks.

Residents protest

The district of Reykhólahreppur has a population of around 260, and their opinions appear to be divided on the issue. The district’s mayor was given a petition opposing Route R signed by 95 individuals who reside in the area or own property or operate businesses in the region. Around 1,300 residents live in the regions of Vesturbyggð and Tálknafjarðarhreppur, west of the proposed road. “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,” Bjarnveig Guðbrandsdóttir, chairperson of the local council of Tálknafjarðarhreppur, has stated.