More traffic, please! (neue-deutschland.de)

The A20 construction site in Western Pomerania.

Photo: imago images / Jens Koehler

Actually, the signs in Germany are pointing to the mobility transition: In car traffic, the drives and types of use are changing, at the same time more traffic is to be shifted to rail and public transport. But the actual planning speaks a different language: the federal government wants to have over 1000 construction projects on federal trunk roads with 850 new kilometers of autobahns completed by 2030. This would increase CO2 emissions, significantly impair 170 Natura 2000 areas with the highest EU protection category and prevent the mobility transition, according to a study by the Federal Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) presented on Tuesday. 80 percent of the Natura 2000 areas are already in poor condition. The environmental association speaks of a “maximum road construction program” against which there is increasing resistance, as the protests against the construction of the A 49 through the Dannenröder forest have shown.

The BUND has examined a dozen particularly uneconomical, nature and climate damaging highway projects in all parts of Germany. In all of these projects, costs are set significantly too low, European environmental law is being undermined and fair public participation and alternative testing are denied, as the study by the environmental association says.

The spectrum ranges from the eight-lane expansion of the Autobahn 3 from Leverkusen to Oberhausen, the expansion of the federal highway 96 Neubrandenburg – Oranienburg with partially four-lane bypasses and the construction of the B 10 through the Palatinate Forest Biosphere Reserve, although there is a rail line parallel to the planned road for freight traffic could be expanded. The planning for the A 20 coastal motorway is particularly blatant: around 80 percent of the planned route runs through moors and marshland, which bind a total of 450 million tons of CO2. The greenhouse gas would be released by the construction and rare animal species and adapted plants would be destroyed. At the same time, the costs have exploded: instead of the originally planned 1.9 billion euros, the federal government has now put the total budget at six billion. The BUND is even assuming at least seven billion.

“New motorways and motorway-like federal highways are no longer in keeping with the times,” says BUND chairman Olaf Bandt. “But there are many more climate-damaging, nature-destroying, overpriced and unnecessary highway projects that can and must be prevented now.” Bandt refers to the Climate Protection Act of 2019, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in traffic by 42 percent by 2030 . This requires an immediate halt to new construction and a moratorium on the planning of large new highways. The money saved must be invested in road maintenance and rail expansion in order to relocate passenger and freight traffic in a climate-friendly manner.

The BUND traffic expert, Werner Reh, points out that the review of the long-distance road requirements plan is due next year. A “general overhaul of this gigantic bad planning and the starting shot for future-oriented mobility planning” would have to take place. The real goal of the large and oversized road projects is to generate more traffic and thereby “perpetuate” road construction. Instead, what is needed now is “integrated traffic and mobility planning as well as traffic-efficient spatial and urban development.”

So it is a very complex matter. And it remains questionable whether numerous projects will actually be shaken after the corona pandemic or whether these will not be sold as part of economic stimulus programs. After all, changes would be easier to make than before, when all countries were involved in the operation of the highways and could have a say in the planning. At the turn of the year, the federal government took over all tasks through the Federal Highway Company.

For the BUND it is clear: All projects must now be subjected to an effective environmental review and fair public participation by the government. In doing so, needs-based, cost-effective and more environmentally friendly alternatives would have to be examined. These exist in all twelve projects examined.

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