Sunday, April 17, 2016

B 31

stands for Bundesstraße 31. This Federal Highway running west-east connects Freiburg with Donaueschingen crossing the Black Forest. Initially in the 1970th the Federal Government had planned an autobahn, the A 86, bypassing Freiburg in the north. When this project was cancelled the B 31 was upgraded to four lanes but in traversing the Black Forest via the rocky Höllental (Hell Valley) the highway narrows to only two lanes. All west-east traffic runs through Freiburg along both sides of the Dreisam River where long haul Diesel trucks cause excessive noise. However, it is even more annoying that the traffic pollutes the air with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) where levels frequently exceed limits the European Union (EU) has fixed for residential areas. EU member states are requested to keep those limits otherwise penalties of millions of euros must be send to Brussels.

The easiest way to get rid of high NO2 concentrations in the city would be to place the B 31 into a tunnel. Five years ago the shorter northern and easier part was placed underground while the financing of the longer western and more complicated section got the federal financial approval just three weeks ago. With federal money the B 31 will be upgraded to become the A 860, Freiburg's city autobahn. The total cost estimate is 325 million euros (400 MU$). With 163 Euro per kilometer the western section of Freiburg's city tunnel will be the most expensive autobahn that has been built in Germany so far and it will take 15 years to complete. The EU however will not wait until their air quality standards are eventually met in Freiburg in 2031.

Planned and existing city tunnel (©Wikipedia/Maximilian Dürrbecker)
Since last year the city of Freiburg is within a "green" environmental zone of low air pollution. Only cars fulfilling the latest low-emission values fixed in the EU are allowed to enter the city boundaries. The only exception is the B 31 thoroughfare so that the important west-east traffic may transit the Black Forest without restrictions. Placing the B 31 into the "green" environmental zone will exclude many Dreckschleudern (big polluters) in particular foreign trucks from transiting Freiburg. With this ban, however, lots of traffic will escape into neighboring villages not having the necessary road stability and infrastructure. The Regierungspräsidium (the local state authority) is in dire straights.

Fitting the tunnel below an existing infrastructure is not easy (©Freiburg Garten- und Tiefbauamt)
Last week Regierungspräsidentin Bärbel Schäfer called for the help of Freiburg citizens. The local authority intended to form six working groups doing brainstorming and looking for solutions how to get to grips with the air pollution along the B 31. Eventually only 30 "experts" followed the call and only four working groups could be formed. The Badische Zeitung mentioned a few ad hoc proposals that were already made:

Since a train, the Höllentalbahn, running parallel to the B 31 transverses the Black Forest put all the trucks on rail. With no infrastructure and only one track available forget it.

Make public transport cheaper and give out short distance tickets. Sorry, truck drivers will not buy those and that.

Place the B 31 into the city's environmental zone. In case of a federal road only the Federal Ministry of Transport and not the state government can authorize such a move.

Red Baron is disgusted. Where many experts have failed to provide a solution for the long known air pollution problem lay persons should now spend their time squaring the circle. The participation of citizens in the debate is mere eyewash and an abuse of their good will. The small number of people attending the Open-Space-Conference (as the Regierungspräsidium called it) proves that the mature citizen is not as dumb as those governing us assume. Is the last call for people the final cartridge the state authorities aim towards the EU in Brussels to avoid penalties? We in Freiburg have done everything possible to reduce NO2 concentrations even asking our citizens to serve as a fig leaf.

No comments:

Post a Comment