Flemish government okays expansion of Brussels Ring
Split between through and local traffic will speed up movement, improve safety and ease pressure on local roads
Plans are “a step in the right direction”
The plans cover two zones: the Zaventem zone from the junction with the E40 in the direction of Leuven to the junction with the E19 in the direction of Mechelen; and the North zone from the junction with the E40 direction Ghent up to and including the Vilvoorde viaduct.
Work on the Zaventem zone will start in 2016 at a cost of €98 million and create three lanes in both directions for through traffic, and two lanes for local traffic. No date has yet been set for work on the North zone, which will cost €230 million. On the section between the E40 and A12, there will be an extra two lanes for local traffic; on the A12 to E19 section will be one extra lane. As the Ring Road is entirely in Flanders, the Flemish region is shouldering the entire cost of the project.
According to the government, the split between through and local traffic will speed up movement, improve safety and ease pressure on local roads, often used by through traffic to avoid the worst delays on the Ring. The government has also promised extra investment in public transport and cycle infrastructure.
According to Unizo, the Flemish organisation that represents the self-employed, the government’s plans are “a step in the right direction towards more fluid traffic” but warned that the changes to the Ring must be accompanied by improvements in mobility elsewhere, including the extension of the use of rush-hour lanes.
Motoring organisation Touring called the plans “An absolutely essential project that offers a solution to the acute problems of congestion, pollution and road safety, which confront thousands of road users every day.”
Opposition party Open VLD supported the plans but questioned how they would be put into operation. “This government is good at taking principled decisions, but that things can go seriously awry when it comes to putting decisions into practice,” said parliament member Irina De Knop, citing Antwerp’s Oosterweel link as an example.
Groen, the other main opposition party in Flanders, supports a split between through and local traffic but opposes the construction of extra lanes. “A broadening of the Ring will damage the health and quality of life of thousands of residents of Brussels and Brabant,” members Hermes Sanctorum and Annemie Maes said.
Groen was joined in opposing the plans by various environmental and mobility groups, including Beter Bond Leefmilieu and the cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond. According to critics, the addition of extra lanes will add an additional 28 tonnes of fine particulates, 150 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide and 109,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Rudi Vervoort, minister-president of the Brussels-Capital Region, said he was “surprised” by the sudden decision to go ahead with the plans and called for more dialogue between the two regions, as well as an inter-regional task force on mobility. Although the Ring is entirely in Flanders, Brussels argues that the Capital Region will feel an enormous effect from the changes.
In related news, the government approved the new Flanders Mobility plan of minister Hilde Crevits, a “sustainable policy with ambitious goals” which looks at mobility in the medium term (to 2030) and long term (to 2050). Among the goals set by the plan: reduction of the number of accident fatalities to 133, on the way towards a figure as low as possible; a speed limit of 90 km/h on congestion-sensitive roads; improved travel times for public transport and cyclists; affordable mobility for low-income groups; and greenhouse emissions to be cut by one-sixth from 2005 levels.
photo: Paul Smith/Flickr Commons
Traffic in Flanders
largest area covered in traffic ever recorded in Belgium in kilometres
time Antwerp drivers spend in gridlock per year in hours
traffic diversions in Flanders per year