The city of Moscow has decided to refocus the massive effort begun last year to replace the city’s asphalt sidewalks with brick.
City Hall said on Thursday the priority would shift to sidewalks in parks and pedestrian zones and away from downtown streets. It denied a media report earlier in the day that the program would be ended in order to economize on budget funds
“This information [that the bricking program will end] is wrong on several counts,” Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov told journalists. “First is ignorance of the situation. Second is that the city government is not going to skimp on the convenience of Muscovites.”
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who was appointed to the job in October 2010, kicked off the 4-billion-ruble bricklaying campaign in the summer of 2011.
Sobyanin argued last year that “unsightly” asphalt sidewalks needed to be replaced with brick, which lasts longer than asphalt, drains better and is less apt to ice over.
However, brick is three times as expensive as asphalt per square meter.
The program called for replacing over 1 million square meters of sidewalk, mainly along downtown streets. However, despite the seemingly ubiquitous repaving effort, only 340,000 square meters were replaced in 2011, Biryukov said. A further 400,000 square meters was repaved this summer.
“We will continue this work,” Biryukov said, claiming the program had the full backing of city residents.
However, he said, the focus will shift to sidewalks in parks and pedestrian zones and away from downtown, where an ongoing effort to create more parking spaces could interfere with the repaving.
Not everyone agrees asphalt sidewalks ought to be ripped up and replaced with brick.
“Laying brick requires more highly skilled labor than laying asphalt. Given the scale of the work, there was more low-quality bricklaying than there was low-quality asphalt-laying,” said Natalya Samover, the coordinator of Archnadzor, a group concerned with preserving historical sites in downtown Moscow.
Environmentalists also have faint praise for the program.
“In terms of the city’s greenery, brick may be a little more ecological, but we’re not going to go out waving banners in favor of brick,” the director of the Green Patrol environmental program, Roman Pukalov, told RIA Novosti.