There are a few things you need to know in order to understand importance of this piece of news:

  • Main highway connecting Sochi to Moscow (or Moscow to Sochi, if you like) is federal highway M-4, aka «Don» highway
  • «There are only two problems in Russia: fools and roads» – this common Russian saying should tell you something about the overall state of roads in Russia
  • Recently, a law regulating pay roads in Russia has been passed, and State corporation established with intent to improve federal roads.

The «Don» highway crosses several regions in Russia: somewhere road pavement is good, somewhere it’s ok, but in Voronezh and Rostov regions it’s pretty bad. It’s so bad, in fact, that the part of the highway going through Rostov region is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the country (I’ll talk about this a little in one of the next posts). Several years ago, driving from St.-Petersburg to Sochi we witnessed five accidents with fatalities, four of which were on «Don», and all four between Voronezh and Rostov-on-Don. That’s only within two days. The latest trip I took on that road was this summer, in August, and it wasn’t that bad this time (no fatal accidents around, anyways), still the road is very bad in some regions.

One thing always surprises me on these trips, though, is a pay road near Voronezh. It’s been around for a while, but it’s always in bad condition. It’s also short and cheap (though, I think 20 rub (70 cents) for 18 km (11mi) is more than we pay in NY for pay roads), so nobody avoids it, but it makes no sense for it to be there in the condition it is right now. And the road doesn’t seem to improve overtime.

Not that long ago, may be a year ago or so, a law was passed in Russia which regulates pay roads. One of it’s key features is that each pay road must to have a free alternative route. A little later a state corporation was established by the government in order to take care of roads under federal budget. The strategy they selected was to start charging for using roads, and use these money, along with the money from the rental of the nearby areas (from motels, shops, etc.), to fix existing, and build new roads. I guess that’s pretty standard around the world.

So, last week it was announced that «Don» highway goes over to this state corporation, and that some parts of it will no longer be free. This was announced by the local government of the Voronezh region. $180 mln will be allocated next year for the reconstruction of the 326 km (202 mi) of this highway there.

Since the corporation has just been formed, I haven’t heard of any feedback of weather they actually improve anything or not. The History tells me to be skeptical, but hope inside is still alive :) that one day I’ll be able to drive home without much worry for myself or my car…

Have you ever drove in Russia? What do you think about Russian roads?


  1. 1
    Robert MacDonald
    November 3rd, 2009 at 1:37

    Hi Erik,

    We just got back from a fascinating trip to Xocta, my first time staying on the Black Sea.

    Yes, I already posted about our trip, but I can write new content for your blog… a few paragraphs anyway.

    I was a teenager when the US Interstate Highway System was authorized in the ’50s, saw it quickly implemented throughout the east coast area… all from a Highway Trust Fund from gasoline taxes. So the blueprint is there for Russia, but does it have the discipline to get things rolling?

    All good wishes,

    Rob… Loquacious… on American Russia Observations

  2. 2
    November 3rd, 2009 at 5:39

    Hi Robert! You have an interesting blog, even more so for me since I moved to Saint Petes a year ago after 13 years living in NY myself :) I’ll be reading you post about a trip to Khosta (where I grew up!! :)) in a few minutes, and other articles as well. I guess I’ll get a sense of how you liked it in my hometown there. Added you to my blog roll.

    I’ll drop you an email in a min too, I’ll be really glad if you share your opinion and experiences about Sochi here on my blog, or prospects of Russian roads, as you most likely none of what I wrote in this article is new to you after living in Russia for a few years :)

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