Forty-eight councillors of the City of Helsinki have expressed their support for a motion lodged by Hannu Oksala (Greens) to designate half of the Mannerheimintie road for pedestrian use. Oksala proposes that the eastern half of the city's artery be transformed into a promenade over the roughly 600 metre stretch between the Postikatu and Eteläesplanadi roads.
With the centre of the road still designated for trams, cars would only be left with one lane in each direction.
“Expansions of pedestrian city centres have been well-liked all over the world,” Oksala points out, viewing that the proposed changes would increase the appeal of down-town Helsinki.
Ville Lehmuskoski, the director of the city's traffic planning department, recognises the “potential” of the proposal. The city planning department, he says, will evaluate the proposal.
“This is the part of Helsinki where pedestrians should be the priority,” Lehmuskoski adds.
Oksala is confident that the proposed changes are feasible, because traffic volumes on the said stretch of road are considerably lower than, for example, at the National Opera, where one line in each direction has sufficed.
Members of the Social Democrats have also voiced their backing for the proposal. “I'm very positive about it,” Osku Pajamäki (SDP) says.
The National Coalition, the largest party on the city council, is lukewarm to the idea.
“I don't subscribe to it. We have to approach the down-town area as a whole. We currently have a number of separate proposals which may lead to a bad result,” views Risto Rautava (NCP), the chair of the planning department.
The proposal is tentatively set to be presented to the city council for discussion next autumn, with Oksala hoping that the promenade would be ready by spring 2015. He estimates that the project would cost approximately 500,000 euros.
“Abroad, these have been carried out relatively simply. In New York, for example, plants and other objects that are easy on the eye have been used to block the traffic.”
Kalle Silfverberg – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: Helsinki city planning department