Thursday, August 29, 2019

Could Federalism Save Russia’s Roads and the Lives of People who Travel on Them?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 28 – Russia’s roads are notoriously bad – they currently rank 114th in the world, just behind Benin’s and just above Zimbabwe’s ( – and their condition is responsible for thousands of accidents, injuries and deaths.

            In the first half of 2019, there were almost 27,400 accidents in which more than 35,000 people were injured and 2300 killed. According to Russian officials, approximately 20 percent of the accidents and thus of the deaths and injuries happened because of the bad state of the roadways (

            The reasons for this are well-known: the harsh climate in much of the country, the fact that those who lay asphalt or concrete make more money from repairing roads than installing ones that last a long time, and the failure of Moscow officials who make the decisions to increase the compression required for road beds to keep up with ever heavier trucks and increased traffic.

            Many argue that only reform of the bases on which Russian roads are built or the infusion of more cash will keep them from continuing to deteriorate as rapidly as they are now doing. But an innovative project in Karelia suggests that a major part of the solution to this Russian problem could lie in the development of the federal system.

            Russia’s worst roads are to be found in rural areas far from the capital. In Moscow, in contrast, the central government devotes enormous attention to the ever more crowded roads and streets and many of them are thus in good condition. But in rural areas, the roads are often horrific.

            The fault lies not with regional officials who typically do not control either the design of roads that would take into account local conditions which may vary widely from all-Russian standards or the money that would be needed to ensure that any roads they did built would last longer than most do now.

            If the regions had greater control of both things, Russia’s roads would almost certainly improve. But there is another way in which decentralization and federalism can contribute in Russia as they do in Western countries like the United States to good highways – the possibility that regional officials can experiment and come up with ideas that will help everyone.

            In Karelia, journalist Aleksandr Gnetnyev reports for MBC News, researchers at the local branch of the Academy of Sciences have come up with a radar system that allows for monitoring the conditions of the ground under roadways.  The information they gain can be used to develop the proper compression levels (

            If investigators in Russia’s more than 80 federal subjects had the opportunity to conduct research and regional officials had the power and money to implement such projects, Russia and Russians as a whole would benefit not just in this area but in many others. Unfortunately, despite the Karelian case, the Putin regime is moving in exactly the opposite direction. 

No comments:

Post a Comment