Pyotr Biryukov: Without My Street Tverskaya would be full of asphalt patches

Pyotr Biryukov: Without My Street Tverskaya would be full of asphalt patches
Moscow Deputy Mayor for Housing and Utilities Pyotr Biryukov speaks about the scale of the My Street programme.

Pyotr Biryukov

Street refurbishment efforts are in full swing on each of the 59 Moscow streets slated for improvement under this year’s My Street programme.

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Utilities Pyotr Biryukov, in an interview with, said that My Street is not just about making streets look smarter. It is also about installing new engineering communications with a lifespan of up to dozens of years. The sweeping reconstruction currently under way on Tverskaya Street and other streets means that no further structural upgrades will be needed for at least 70-100 years to come.

— Mr Biryukov, what precisely is being done under the My Street programme? 

— First of all, we are laying underground communications, which will enable us to save money later. We are replacing water pipes first and then heating, gas and sewerage systems and electric cables.

In other words, there will be no need to replace communications under the streets that will be reconstructed this year. Only emergency repair works that no one can foresee. We have warned resource-supplying companies not to come up with urban development projects that may require the replacement of communications under the streets currently being refurbished. Actually, such large-scale reconstruction under the My Street programme doesn’t cost us too much money. (Less than 1.4 percent of the city’s budget)

— How long will the new communications endure?

— As of last year, we began building underground pipe conduits with twice the lifespan as before. We will then lay cable lines or high-voltage wires through them. On Tverskaya Street, for example, nine pipe strings are being built, but only three of them will be really used at the current stage, or perhaps four in some places. We are doing that in order to avoid street digging during the next 25 years if new cable lines have to be installed.

Around 260 km of pipe conduits were built last year and 140 km will be this year under the streets participating in the programme. The service life of the new communications, both the cables and the water pipes, is around 50 years.

— Is the storm water drainage system also being replaced?

— Where possible, for instance, on Tverskaya, we are building local storm water runoffs to channel storm water underground and then through the conduits to water treatment facilities. Where this is not possible, relief slopes to the nearest water intakes are being made.

What we are doing now will not be done again for at least 70-100 years

— What about the scale itself of the street refurbishment?

— The last time Tverskaya underwent such huge reconstruction was in the 1930s (some buildings had to be relocated to make the street wider - ru). 

Therefore, I believe that what we are doing now will not be done again for at least 70-100 years. Think how long the materials will endure. Certainly, this saves budget money. Whatever we do, we hope that the cost will recoup itself over the subsequent operation of these communications.   

Whatever we do, we hope that the cost will be recouped over the subsequent operation of these communications

— So if we don’t invest now, we will have to sacrifice on quality?

— Look. Suppose we do not replace some water pipe or gas pipes today. And in winter, an unexpected emergency might occur, because those communications are 40-50 years old. If a pipe burst were to burst, say, on Leontyevsky Pereulok or Voznesensky Pereulok, we would have to dig there. And the following year, we would have to dig again to replace another pipe section. So, Tverskaya would all be under constant repairs and would be full of asphalt patches as it used to be. But today all we need is three months of patience and there will be no more excavations.

— Are water pipes, gas pipes and cable communications being laid or replaced everywhere?

— Where their service life has expired. We have been working systemically to modernise communications. Hundreds of kilometres of heating, power and water supply networks are replaced annually on a scheduled basis. We have improved our system of preparing the utilities for winter. We now use pressure tests, in some areas doubling working pressure in water supply networks. In other words, we detect and tackle problems during summer so as to avoid emergencies turnoffs during winter. The wear-and-tear rate of communications in Moscow has dropped by 2.5 percent over the past five years despite a 4.7 percent growth in Russia as a whole.

— Speaking about methods for laying communications, do you use innovative technology?

— Of course, we do. We work in densely built-up areas with lots of trees around. To minimise excavations, we practice underground drilling. A borehole is drilled, workers go down and, using soil piercing tools, lay polyethylene seamless pipelines 200-300 m long. Sewer pipes, too, are replaced without excavations. 

The wear-and-tear rate of communications in Moscow has dropped by 2.5 percent over the past five years

— There have been reports that communications are being laid anew on some streets where this was already done before. Is that true?

— Let us not confuse matters. For example, we completed the Varshavskoye and Kashirskoye motorways. We carried out all road works and built the communication conduits. Earlier providers used aerial cable lines. They must get access to courtyards now. So we postponed this till the next stage. We want to completely get rid of areal cables, even in courtyards.

We will close the street for 24 hours and bring several road rollers for seamless carpet paving

— Although My Street is on the whole being implemented without full street closures, traffic areas are nevertheless closed from time to time, for example, on Tverskaya. Will there be more of such closings?

— For construction workers to be able do their job perfectly, they need to use modern equipment – heavy machines. For example, we will start paving Tverskaya with asphalt soon after we are through with what remains to be done there under My Street programme. Two options are possible: either we will shut one or two traffic lanes and pave them separately or we will close the street for 24 hours and bring several road rollers for seamless carpet paving. In the latter case, the street will look prettier. So, there will be brief street closures.

— Does that mean that Tverskaya Street will be closed?

— It may be necessary. There are other streets that should be paved in a carpet fashion. These are Znamenka, Vozdvizhenka, Malaya Dmitrovka and others. This technology requires street closures for 24 hours or less. And the asphalt pavement will last longer. The fewer seams the pavement has, the longer it endures.

— When are you planning to do this?

— This work is scheduled for late July or August when city traffic is less tense. On the whole, I can say that despite certain inconveniences, the roads are not congested. Our task is to finish all upgrade works on central streets by September 1.

— How much asphalt and how many paving slabs will be laid?

— This year, around 13-14 million sq m will be asphalt-paved throughout the city. And nearly 450,000 paving slabs will be laid under the My Street programme. 

— Why are larger slabs being used?

— This is the wish expressed by people on the Active Citizen website. 

First, the service life of the new slabs is seven or eight times longer than that of asphalt pavement. Second, the exploitation costs of the slabs are cheaper by 2.5 times.

Moreover, in the event of an emergency, slabs can be removed and then neatly reinstalled, while asphalt will have to be replaced from crossroad to crossroad. This process is complicated and ugly. Besides, there are environmental concerns. There are more harmful emissions from asphalt by dozens of times. 

Last year, we asked people to come up with their proposals on what city streets should look like. People said that paving slabs should be larger. This is proved by international experience. First, large slabs last longer, because they are thicker. Second, they are more comfortable to walk on than small slabs. That’s why we use large slabs for pedestrian baselines. 

— My Street also stipulates more trees, green squares and even gardens.

— In 2010, we had 130 organised green areas. Today, their number exceeds 400. And in a year, there will be fifty more. Over the past five years, we have refurbished 142 streets and pedestrian areas – in all, more than 220 km. These are areas and parks in the centre and garden areas in other districts.

— There even appeared a new term – “small urban areas with plants and benches”.

— Yes, lots of such public spaces will be created under the My Street Each street will have mini-areas or mini-squares serving as leisure areas. There will be three or five such places on Novy Arbat Street. Mini-squares will appear on all streets included in the refurbishment programme.

— That means there will be more than fifty mini-squares.

— By the way, speaking of Novy Arbat. Will a “dry” fountain be built there, as has been promised, so that one could run between jets of water?

— You will see it soon. Muscovites fell in love with the fountain at the Muzeon Park on Krymskaya Embankment. There will be a similar fountain on Novy Arbat.