The traffic forecast for the bridge has been drastically downgraded: from 24,000 to 13,000 vehicles by 2025. Which in itself does not in the slightest justify a motorway. Compare it with this: In Koblenz there is a bridge that is used daily by 100,000 vehicles. This is so dangerous it is currently closed for lorries – to repair it will cost €150 million but the national government only offers 50 million. The authorities in Ludwigshafen intend to spend 4 million on under-netting yet another disastrous bridge so that falling masonry cannot kill anyone… all because, of course, they cannot afford a new one. Yet 330 million – minimum – can be squandered on the Hochmoselübergang (HMÜ).
The terrible state of existing infrastructure is a constant theme, but it does not seem as if anyone will ever be sensible enough to put the situation right; or else surely the world would come to a grinding halt!
More and more it seems as if the HMÜ is only really ‘needed’ by about 2000 vehicles who cross the Mosel each day for work between the towns of Morbach and Wittlich. That is a completely spurious basis for a motorway. However, the bridge must be built 4 lanes wide (with 2 hard shoulders), because any narrower would be unstable given the extreme height and length. “If a local connection is all that is needed, why not build just that somewhere appropriate?” I hear you asking yourselves, and scratching your heads.
Here is the unfortunate, insensible, sad and demoralising answer, which I finally understood last week at a depressing podium discussion in Bernkastel with the local politicians:
It is this option or nothing. (And nothing is not an option.) They are worried, positively scared in fact, that a new planning process would take too long, and that it may inspire a further opposition campaign. My simple answer is this: Firstly, plans already exist for an alternative and much more reasonable route, which (even if permission has expired) could be easily and quickly resurrected. Secondly, this would probably not take the 7 to 10 years that will be needed to complete the current route. Thirdly, if plans are produced that suit the requirements of the local traffic situation, it will be far easier to deal with any criticism that arises. Not to mention the enormous cost saving of bailing now and spending far less on a reasonable option.
What am I missing? The greed that fuels the whole project – the state is paying a little and gaining a lot of cash from Berlin. The juggernaut planning process which has kept dozens of people employed over 40 years. The local politicians (Greens and Left excepted) who fear this slipping through their buttery fingers… It is 100% clear to me that if this road was planned today, the current route would not even be considered as a viable option. Almost everybody, on one level or another, seems to acknowledge some of the following observations: this crossing is oversized and not in the best place, it will have an impact on wine growing and tourism in affected areas, it is neither appropriate to the traffic situation we have today, nor for the future traffic forecast. YET IT MUST BE BUILT BECAUSE THE PLANS ALREADY EXIST. How absolutely mind-blowingly backwards is that?
Welcome to Germany, home of exceptional wines that they care nothing for.