The opening ceremony of the entire E18 motorway was held on 24 May 2018 in Vaalimaa. The event culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Vaalimaa tunnel, where Paula Risikko, Speaker of Parliament, officially opened the motorway. The motorway-level connection from Turku to Vaalimaa is now fully completed, more than 60 years after the first section of the building contract was initiated. The E18 is the first Finnish motorway, the building of which started in 1956 on Tarvontie, connecting Helsinki and Espoo. The last section of the E18 motorway from Hamina to Vaalimaa was completed in March 2018.
In addition to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the completion of the E18 was celebrated in a seminar for invited guests, including people who have been involved in the various building stages and representatives of project stakeholders from the building, financial and municipal sectors. The speakers at the seminar included Veli-Matti Mattila, Chairman of the Board of the Confederation of Finnish Industries; Jorma Mäntynen, Professor, Director at WSP; and Alexander Stubb, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank.
In the future, unconventional usage of various funding models that complement budget financing will be critical from the perspective of development projects. The E18 motorway has been built with both public and private funding, and this combination has played a key role in keeping the schedule, as reported to the EU. Traffic connections are increasingly important as success factors and drivers for economic activities, says Kari Wihlman, Director General of the Finnish Transport Agency.
The level of funding for transport routes must be raised and a long-term development outlook is needed. The development of transport infrastructure spans over decades. For example, the E18 motorway was a vision of the 1990s, and today, half of the Finnish GNP is generated and the Russian trade is handled in its area of influence. Transport and logistics are a natural part of Finnish competitiveness, both in the domestic market and international trade. We need world-class logistics services and full utilisation of technologies and automation, says Veli-Matti Mattila, Chairman of the Board of the Confederation of Finnish Industries.
Finland is more dependent on the global economy than ever before. Therefore, all transport networks must be harnessed to provide connections between Finland and the rest of the world. The E18 facilitates trade between east and west especially well, as it forms a smooth connection between Sweden, Finland and Russia. Routes have an enabling role and they should always be proactively developed. If a conventional investment approach had been taken, the benefits to society would have never been realised, said Professor, Director Jorma Mäntynen at WSP.
The European Investment Bank funds strategic transport routes such as Europe-wide transport networks (TEN-T), of which the E18 is part. It is important to the Finnish and European economies that these significant transport routes are completed. The EIB has co-funded all privately-funded sections of the E18 motorway crossing southern Finland, and we are extremely satisfied that the last section between Hamina and Vaalimaa has now been opened to traffic, says Alexander Stubb, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank.
The E18 serves Finland’s entire economic life and improves traffic safety
The completion of the project, E18 Hamina–Vaalimaa, this spring saw the completion of the 344-kilometre motorway-level connection from Turku to Vaalimaa. The E18 is Finland’s most international arterial road. Along the road, there are a total of 87 grade-separated junctions, 236 bridges and 12 tunnels. On a daily basis, up to 87,000 vehicles use the busiest sections of the road. In its completed form, the motorway reduces traffic accidents as much as 60 per cent, and fatal accidents are nearly eliminated.