Estonia Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

Estonia’s main road network (click to enlarge).

According to wholevehicles, the road network in Estonia is not very extensive, which is due to the low population density. One third of Estonia’s residents live in Tallinn. Officially there are no motorways (kiirteed), but a number of roads do meet this qualification: in particular route 1 from Tallinn towards Narva and a longer part of route 2 to Tartu. The same goes for route 4 to Pärnu as well as the Laagna tee in Tallinn. Estonia is not a very important transit country, there is some freight traffic from Finland to Central Europe and some freight traffic to Russia. The waiting times at the border are quite long because the border with Russia is an external border of both Schengen and the EU. There are no border controls at the border with Latvia.

The major part of the main road network consists of a number of through roads with numbers with one or two digits. The quality of these roads is generally excellent. The secondary road network consists of secondary roads connecting all villages. Except for the Tallinn bypass and in Tallinn itself, the roads are very quiet. There are no toll roads in Estonia. There are plans for limited upgrades to the road network, such as a highway bypass from Tallinn and the conversion of route 1 (E20) from Tallinn to Narva. It is also the intention to improve route 2 from Tallinn to Tartu with grade-separated intersections and lane separations and partly with 2×2 lanes. The traffic intensities do not justify a full highway. The distance between the two cities is approximately 180 kilometers.

The country has only one real border crossing with Russia: at Narva/Ivangorod towards Saint Petersburg. This is quite busy with long waiting times, especially for freight traffic. Because the largest part of the border is formed by the River Narva or Lake Peipsi, there are only a few local border crossings in the southeast of the country. There are many more border crossings with Latvia, of which route 4 (E67) is by far the most important.

Main road network

Main Roads in Estonia

Statistics

Statistics for 2018 :

The road network was 58,974 kilometers long in 2018 of which;

  • 1,609 km of main roads (Põhimanteed)
  • 2,405 km of secondary roads (Tugimanteed)
  • 12,481 km of secondary roads (Kõrval Maanteed)
  • 39,345 km of local and private roads
  • 3,134 km of urban roads

Of the national roads has;

  • 38.2% a gravel pavement
  • 24.5% an asphalt concrete pavement
  • 23.0% a bitumen gravel pavement
  • 8.6% improved gravel pavement
  • 5.7% an asphalt concrete pavement

It is noted that the national roads include almost all roads in Estonia. The Põhimaanteed and Tugimanteed are usually all paved. 61.8% of numbered roads (including Kõrvalmaneed) are paved.

European roads

European roads in Estonia
E20 • E67 • E77 • E263 • E264 • E265

Road management

The Estonian road authority is Transpordiamet, or the Estonian Transport Administration in English. Transpordiamet was established on 1 January 2021 as an amalgamation of the aviation, maritime affairs and road management agencies. The main predecessor for road management was Maanteeamet.

ice roads

The ice road from Virtsu to Saaremaa.

The Maanteeamet (Estonian road authority) tries to develop 6 ice roads (jääteed) every year. It is not always possible to use all ice roads, this depends on the winter.

The following ice roads are frequently constructed;

  • Rohukula – Sviby
  • Haapsalu – Noarootsia
  • Heltermaa – Rohukula
  • Tärkma – Jõiste
  • Lao – Kihnu
  • Virtusu – Kuivastu

These are all located on the west coast of Estonia, with two routes (Heltermaa – Rohuküla and Virtsu – Kuivastu) replacing ferry services. The route Heltermaa – Rohuküla is more than 20 kilometers long. All these ice roads run across the frozen sea between islands and the mainland. The ice roads will be opened to passenger cars if the ice is more than 22 centimeters thick. In principle, trucks are not allowed, the maximum weight is usually 2.5 tons.

The recommended speed for passenger cars is below 25 km/h, or between 40 and 70 km/h. At other speeds, the ice can be damaged by resonance. The ice roads are only open during daylight and only when visibility is more than 300 meters. Vehicles must keep a minimum distance of 250 meters from the vehicle in front. Overtaking is prohibited, and leaving the marked ice road is also prohibited. It is strongly not recommended to wear a seat belt, and doors must be easy to open.

Road numbering

The road network in Estonia is divided into three classes. The main roads consist of Põhimaanteed (singular: Põhimantee) and Tugimanteed (singular: Tugimantee). The Põhimaanteed form the primary trunk roads and the national road network. These are the single-digit roads, plus Routes 10,11 and 92 because of their importance in the national road network. The Tugimanteed are two-digit major roads and are typically between 10 and 50 kilometers in length.

The secondary roads are the Kõrvalmanteed (singular: Kõrvalmantee). These have 5 digits, with the first two being determined by the district they run into. These first two numbers run from 11 to 25. Most are shorter than 10 kilometers and regularly not paved.

Signage

The signage is almost identical to that in Finland, and differs from those in the southern Baltic countries. The signage consists of blue signs with white letters in capitals (upper case). Major roads are indicated in a red square with a white box, minor roads in a yellow box with a white box. The secondary roads have three numbers and are indicated in a white rectangle. Exit signage at grade-separated intersections consists of signs in the form of an arrow pointing to the right. There are also U-turns: Because one doesn’t want level crossings on the main roads, crossing traffic has to hitch a ride on the expressway for a while, then make a U-turn and turn in the other direction. This is more common in the Baltic countries. There are also known signs with Stockholm as the destination choice, via the ferry service. The target choice is generally clear with larger towns and not too many local targets. Forkboards exist and are sometimes quite elaborate with clover loops shown as such. Indirect road numbers are referred to by the number in a white broken dotted frame, which is more common in Europe, for example inSweden and Germany.

In Estonia, the Arial font has been used since 2001, with capital letters. Before that, the Russian ГОСТ 10807-78 (GOST) font from 1978 was used. This was later replaced by the ГОСТ Р 52290-2004, from the year 2004, but not introduced in Estonia, but in Lithuania. The signage guidelines are laid down in Estonian Standard EVS 613.

Toll

Estonia’s road network is toll-free for passenger cars. Estonia was one of the last countries in Europe without some form of tolling for freight traffic. As of January 1, 2018, a digital vignette has been introduced for vehicles heavier than 3.5 tons, which is called ‘Teekasutustasu’ (road user charge). The toll rates depend on the maximum weight of the vehicle, the number of axles and the Euro standard. When introduced in 2018, e-vignettes were available for 1 day, 7 days, 30 days, 90 days or 1 year. For a heavy modern truck, rates ranged from €12 for a day to €1000 for a year. Trucks with an older Euro standard pay higher rates.

Road safety

Year Road fatalities
2010 79
2011 101
2012 87
2013 81
2014 78
2015 67
2016 71
2017 48
2018 67
2019 52
2020 60

In 2010, there were 88 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants in Estonia, a decrease of 41 percent compared to 2001. Road safety in Estonia has improved greatly, the country is one of the safest in Eastern Europe. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of road deaths decreased by more than 30%. In 2015, the country registered 51 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, making it the only eastern EU country, together with Slovakia, with a ratio lower than the EU average. The number of road deaths per 1 million inhabitants is significantly lower than in the neighboring countries of Latvia and Lithuania – with which Estonia is associated.

Maximum speed

The maximum speed is in principle 50 km/h in built-up areas and 90 km/h outside of it. Speeding is often allowed on better developed roads, theoretically up to 120 km/h, but this maximum speed was only tested once in 1998 on Route 1 between Tallinn and Narva. Usually 100 applies on some well-developed single-lane roads and 110 km/h on double-lane roads with grade separated connections. Since September 29, 2020, Route 2 may be partially driven at 120 km/h.

In Estonia, it was common practice that the speed limit in winter was always reduced to 90 km/h on roads where 100 or 110 km were allowed in the summer. Since November 2020, the speed limit on better developed roads remains 100 or 110, partly dynamically indicated.

Estonia Road Network