30 year wait for asphalt on Ziemupe road continues

It has been talked about for 30 years, but so far nothing has changed – the road to the sea at Ziemupe in Southern Kurzeme district is still one of bumpy gravel and not smooth asphalt.

The poor condition of the road not only hampers efforts to develop tourism but damages the cars of locals on a daily basis, reports Latvian Radio.

Due to limited funding and low traffic volume, the road is not expected to be asphalted, and it will be maintained as before. However, thanks to European Union (EU) funding, South Kurzeme region will asphalt the section leading to Ziemupe parking lot and the center of Ziemupe this year.

Ziemupe parking lot by the sea is one of the destinations for tourists and local residents. There, the owner of the cafe, Daiga Kadeģe, expressed her satisfaction that the new South Kurzeme district will fix one small section this year. Although the weather conditions have not been kind so far this year this year, and a sewage spill in nearby Liepāja has made the sea temporarily a less attractive destination, now and then an intrepid foreign or domestic tourist drives into the parking lot.

"People are happy that at least a small piece of road will be asphalted," said Kadeģe.

The money for the Ziemupe and Jūrmalciems road sections has been redistributed from EU Maritime and Fisheries Fund funding.

A similar situation exists along the entire coast in Southern Kurzeme district. If some sections belonging to the municipality get an asphalt surface up to the sea, the sections of state roads remain graveled or in generally worse condition. The municipality has additionally allocated funding from its budget to pave the center of Ziemupe.

South Kurzeme district tourism expert Raimonds Reinis said that discussions on how to connect the mismatched patches of asphalt continue at the political level.

"They are talking about it on social networks, because people see that Pape is there, Bernati is there, so why is Ziemupe worse. Here is the answer, where we had access to European money, we were able to invest quickly and react promptly. The national road is the national road, also taking over all of it is a relatively large bureaucracy, and it is clear that we could not solve it in the project calendar. The Ziemupe road has been an unfinished work for twenty, thirty years. It is talked about all the time, but nothing has been done," Reinis said.

Agricultural and forest machinery doesn't help 

Eight kilometers from the highway to Ziemupe on the graveled 'national' road, there are continuous vibrations, car tires hitting potholes. Heavy transport leaves for another load of timber. Locals say that both heavy agricultural machinery and forest machinery quickly rut and wear out the road. 

School bus driver Edgars Kuplais revealed what he experienced: "I got a brand new bus, a year passed and a rear part broke off, I had to take it to the warranty service. Terrible. The screws fall out, no matter how slow I drive."

Gedeminas Muižis, a tourist from Lithuania, said that when you drive fast, you can't feel the potholes as much, but admitted it's not safe and it's not the right thing to do. In Lithuania, compared to Latvia, the roads to the sea are more asphalted, although the roads there are also different, he said.

Better roads will mean more tourists

Liene Zaļkane-Glezere, the owner of the guest house "Laikas", said that soon after the road is graded, it is again in a bad condition. "Latvijas Valsts ceļi" (Latvian state roads) explained that this month the section of the road to Ziemupi was graded three times, the last time on July 21. 

Although Załkane-Glezere emphasized that she is happy that the road to the sea is being fixed in some places, better roads in general will mean more visits from tourists and more money into the local economy. The current state of the roads comes as a nasty shock to tourists from Germany, for example. At the moment there is a Catch-22 situation in which the road is not improved because it is not busy, but it is not busy because it is in such poor condition.

Two bicycle tourists from Sigulda – Vita and Ainars Macivkas – who entered the center of Ziemupe, said riding the road was not a pleasant experience.

Vita said: "It feels like you're walking down stairs all the time, you have to think you're walking on a vibrating road all the time."

Ainars says: "It's like a washboard, it makes riding difficult, sometimes even dirt roads are better than asphalt, it can be smoother to ride a bike, but if there are potholes, you're shaken all the time."

In order to prove the need to pave roads important for tourism, one of the solutions would be the measurement of the flow of people through mobile operators, which is already used in Lithuania and Estonia, which would more accurately show the road traffic and the flow of tourists. In Latvia, the state currently does not use such an opportunity, Artis Gustovskis, the Chairman of the Board of the Kurzeme Tourism Association, also emphasized this.

"There are no mobile statistics in Latvia that our colleagues widely use in Europe or Lithuania or Estonia. Maybe because the responsible ministries are conservative when we talk about digital innovations, unfortunately they only come to Riga, especially in tourism," said Gustovskis.

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