The Flemish government has warned of problems on the roads around Antwerp from next month, as works on the Oosterweel connection on the Antwerp Ring start for real. Until now, preparatory works have been taking place, but major works will start on the E17 in may, and on the E34 later in August. Those works promise to make themselves “seen and felt,” said the region’s mobility minister Ben Weyts.
The Oosterweel connection, named after an abandoned village in what is now the port area of Antwerp, is a project that aims to complete the circle of the Antwerp Ring. It would create a new passage on the north-western part of the Ring allowing freight traffic from the left bank of the river Scheldt to travel north to the Netherlands and east to Germany without having to pass around the south of the city as happens at present. The plan would ease congestion on the southern part of the Ring, as well as in the city centre.
However the plan has been fraught with problems, with activists against the original plan – which involved building a viaduct that passed over residential areas – forcing first a Bridge vs. Tunnel referendum of Antwerp residents, then the abandonment of the viaduct idea, and along the way numerous legal challenges which pushed back the date of breaking ground further and further.
The logjam was finally broken when the Flemish government appointed a negotiator to bring together the various sides in the dispute to find a plan all could agree on.
The preparatory works that have taken place over the past year were intended to limit the problems expected when major works begin in May, but the effects will still be felt. “We are trying to prepare the major works as much as possible to limit the problems,” Weyts said.
The first major works will be the preparation of the land at the side of the northern carriageway of the E17 for the placement of noise screens eight metres high. Existing works on the south side will continue, while the central reservation will see the installation of new lighting and technical equipment. The works on the E17 are expected to last until mid-2020.
Later, in August, works will begin on the sides and centre of the E34 by the Waasland-Oost junction, in preparation for the creation of a new and enlarged on and off complex. Those works will last until July next year. In both locations limited delays are expected, with the number of lanes remaining the same but restricted in width.
To help keep the public informed of the presence and duration of major works, the former Antwerp Mobility Management Company BAM, now known as Lantis, launched a new mascot, Corneel van Oosterweel (photo). “When you see Corneel, then you know we’re working on Oosterweel,” said Luc Hellemans, managing director of Lantis.