Riga road repairs return with a vengeance

Less than a year after Latvia's social media went into meltdown over chaotic road repairs on Barona iela, one of Riga's main streets, the process is repeating itself on Brivibas iela, the capital's most important and famous thoroughfare, as well as other important arteries such as Elizabetes iela, home to many hotels.

For weeks Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been buzzing with pictures and videos of roads dug up, pedestrians and cyclists squeezing dangerously between backed-up traffic and suggestions of slapdash workmanship in the repair process.

The organization Pilseta cilvekiem (City for people) has produced a video showing the locations and conditions of many of the current repair work, and the dangers some of them pose.

That all boiled over at an extraordinary meeting of Riga City Council August 3 with angry exchanges between the ruling bloc and opposition deputies.

Riga transport department boss Emils Jakrins came under particular fire for failing to respond adequately to public concerns and opposition deputies demanded his resignation, though it was not forthcoming.

It is not the first time Jakrins has come under heavy criticism. During the winter he and Mayor Nils Usakovs were castigated for a video in which they enjoyed themselves in one of Riga's snow plows while residents complained of uncleared streets. The video was suspected of being thinly-veiled political campaigning and the show that featured it was pulled from LTV's schedules.

Meanwhile people looking for information at his personal Twitter account, which links to the Riga city transport department and features retweets of many of their releases may be surprised to see the transport official's main picture, featuring a room lined with machine guns.

At the end of July, the Transport Department said the contractors carrying out repairs had been fined almost 8,000 euros for sub-standard work. Also, the Department had issued more than 50 oral warnings to construction workers and building supervisors - none of which will come as much comfort to people trying to get from one place to another this summer.

Meanwhile, Mayor Nils Usakovs took to Twitter pointing out there will soon be an excellent skate park on Barona iela where members of the public can dodge, weave and jump in a more enjoyable manner.


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