Helsinki must proceed gradually with city boulevards, says Mayor Vapaavuori

Helsinki must explore all available options to respond to rising demand for housing, services and infrastructure, says Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP).

“We will try, start with the easiest, experiment and see if we can succeed. There won’t be any major damage if we proceed gradually, phase by phase, and change our course along the way if necessary,” he writes in a blog published on Saturday.

The City of Helsinki, he reveals, is set to start the so-called boulevardisations with the route that has stirred up the least amount of opposition, Vihdintie.

“How we succeed with Vihdintie will naturally influence how we move forward. We should duplicate successful solutions and learn from possible failures. People in Helsinki and elsewhere will also develop a better understanding of whatthis is about. It will be a decades-long process in each case,” says Vapaavuori.

The Helsinki City Council in 2016 approved a new zoning plan that would convert a total of seven entry routes to the capital into so-called city boulevards. The Helsinki Administrative Court, however, ruled against four of the seven conversions earlier this year , citing concerns about the flow of traffic in and out of Helsinki.

Helsingin Sanomat reported last week that over a half of respondents to its survey are opposed to converting the entry routes into city boulevards. Only a quarter of respondents contrastively lent their support for the conversions.

Vapaavuori, however, argues that the city has no choice but to develop itself in the face of continuing population growth that will drive up demand for housing, services and infrastructure.

“We cannot stand still, however. We must move forward. The city is growing every day. People need housing, and the world must be protected from climate change. And we must be able to get smoothly from one place to another, regardless of the means of transport,” he stresses.

“We must accomplish this sustainably and in a manner that withstands the test of time. It is not an easy task. That is why we must approach it open-mindedly and very comprehensively. Building somewhere else is not an option in its arbitrariness. I believe there is opposition also to all the other options, ranging from complementary building to [re-developing] the Helsinki-Malmi Airport area. In practice, we will need all of these,” views Vapaavuori.
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