The End of Everything
By Fred Flintstone
Photo by Ian Mitchell
There is a particularly foul Russian word that starts with “P” and ends with “Ts” that can be roughly translated as the end of everything. This word perfectly describes the situation with the reconstruction that started June 30 on Leningradskoe Prospekt, at the transition to the Shosse at Sokol, the highway to Sheremetevo Airport. By the time this piece is published, it will most likely be almost impossible to get to the airport, or almost any place north of the city, at any time before midnight.
The bridge over the railway between the Sokol and Voykovskaya metro stations has long been a choke point for the city. The Sokol intersection, where Leningradskoe Prospekt forks west to Volokolomskoe Shosse and northwest to Leningradskoe Shosse, is the focal point for a daily probka (traffic jam) that can last until 10 o’clock at night. The bridge just north is the only north-south crossing point between Rublyovskoye Shosse on the west and Dmitrovskoye Shosse on the east. There are no back-road shortcuts, no secret passages. If you are heading to the airport, you will have to cross this bridge. That is unless you take another route east or west to the MKAD, the outer ring road, and then around on it to re-connect to Leningradskoe Shosse to catch your flight. As I write this article, on June 30, the day the Sokol tunnel is to be closed, I am wondering how many hours we will need to allocate to get to the airport for our summer escape on Tuesday.
There is no way out. I know this particular area of Moscow quite well because I navigate the back-roads here almost every day. This is just another bit of evidence which further convinces me that the road-planners in Moscow ride the metro to work. Highway planning in Moscow is an oxymoron. There does not appear to have been any forethought given to likely problems, or preparation of any relief routes. For instance, the new Kransnopresnya Prospekt from Barricadnaya, which is meant to relieve traffic on Leningradskoe Shosse, will not be completed until winter.
Road planners have designated a couple of obyezd (detours) around the Sokol construction site. These totally inadequate routes have long been paths which knowledgeable drivers have used when things got bad on Leningradskoe, but they have always been risky. On each there are several nail-biting, uncontrolled intersections that require nerves of steel to navigate on a bad day. Now every day will be a bad day. On one stretch, the road passes under Volokolomskoe Shosse, while tram tracks cross over it. As the underpass gets jammed up, north-bound vehicles fill the road, blocking south-bound traffic in the other direction. More than once I have thought I would be spending the night at this crossing.
This situation highlights a general problem with traffic in Moscow: the rail lines, in this case the rail line under Leningradskoe Shosse between Sokol and Voykovskaya. Rail traffic leaves Moscow in all directions from its stations: Kievskiy, Kurskiy, Kazanskiy, Belorussskiy, and many others. There are few crossing points under or over the rails. The effect of this is to funnel traffic into the few crossing points there are since there are no alternative routes. Apart from causing congestion, this can mean a detour of many kilometers just to reach a building a hundred meters away.
They say the Leningradskoe/Sokol project will take five or six months. In that period, you have few choices: stay in Moscow, or stay out – or try airlines which fly from Domodedevo. Postscript: We have direct reports of inflation of on-the-spot “fines” for DUI – in one case 30,000 rubles and another for $3,000. If you drink and drive, your last stop before home may be an escorted visit to an ATM machine.