Belgium in Bulgaria: Traffic management

For several years the University of Ghent has been participating within the Flemish Co-operation Programme with Central and Eastern Europe aimed at supporting projects for an improved liaison between Flanders and the new EU members.
sofia_echo_pic01.jpgIn the case of the University of Ghent, many of the projects are aimed at capacity exchange in the technical field.
The universitys department of mobility and urban planning has built up large experience in several countries in Eastern Europe, including Romania and Bulgaria. In 2006 and 2007 a project worked on a mobility plan for the Bulgarian town of Smolyan in the Rhodope mountains. It was conducted in co-operation with the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy (UACG) in Sofia.

In January 2009, a new project on traffic analysis started in the central Bulgarian town of Veliko Turnovo. The project promoters are the University of Ghent and the municipality of Veliko Turnovo. The other project partners are Sofias UACG, the Centre for Urban Mobility in Sofia and the Road Research Centre, which will execute the traffic surveys. The project budget is 114 000 euro, of which almost 50 per cent is covered by the Flemish government.

In January, the first project mission took place with the purpose of making a clear overview of different traffic problems in and around the city centre. The conclusion was that major obstacles could be divided into three areas: traffic congestion problems; parking difficulties; issues concerning road quality.

The next step in the project was to collect different types of traffic data. During the second mission in March, a set of traffic surveys was conducted to allow better analysis of the problems.

These surveys were done just before the summer holidays, and will be analysed during the following phases of the project, one of which is an analysis of the parking survey. Data will give a detailed view on the use of parking spaces (how many places are filled, for example) and parking duration.

This is valuable information in order to make a parking policy, as different measures are possible, depending on the state of the problem. Instead of expensive measures such as constructing car parks, it may be sufficient to optimise the use of existing parking places by introducing a blue zone or paid parking.

In order to develop a parking policy in Veliko Turnovo, which is up to date with the latest experiences in this field, a conference will also be organised on the topic of urban parking. It will take place at UACG University on October 5 with speakers from Bulgaria and Flanders presenting an overview of current technology. By the end of the year, this should result in a new parking policy for Veliko Turnovo.

The next phase will concentrate on traffic congestion in the city. Results from studies will be incorporated into a traffic model, which will support the project team in order to propose new optimised designs at strategic junctions. The traffic model will evaluate if the new junction capacity will be sufficient to deal with normal traffic flows and reduce congestion.

Finally, the road quality survey will then help to decide which roads should be rehabilitated and which should be given the highest priority. These activities will result in a Mobility Plan for Veliko Turnovo, which should be finalised by June 2010, when the project is expected to end.
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