‘More fluent traffic on Dutch highways with more asphalt’
Although the Dutch drove 1,6% more kilometres in 2017 compared to the year before, traffic jams decreased with 1,8%, according to the Ministry of Waterways and Public Works. Opening up 14 new stretches of asphalt has improved traffic flow significantly and solved traffic jams on a number of black points. Question is ‘for how long’?
By 2030 Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (VVD) wants to create another 1.000 km of new highway lanes, pointing at the results in 2017. Solving traffic jams with more asphalt is a very sensitive matter and highly contested by several mobility specialists, both in the Netherlands and in Belgium.
Mitigate traffic pressure
The minister is convinced to be able to mitigate the growth of traffic jams by making the road wider and to apply traffic management measures. On the short-term the minister foresees 100 million euro extra to improve the fluency of traffic with measures like freeing the highways more rapidly after an accident, among others.
Dutch environmental organization Milieudefensie sees no benefit in extra highway lanes. “Every stretch of asphalt makes the problem bigger by creating extra space for more cars and traffic jams in the future with air pollution and climate change as a consequence. The only solution is fewer cars, by investing in clean shared cars, public transport and more room for the (fast) bicycle.”
Flanders investing 1,5 billion
On the other side of the Dutch southern border, in Flanders, Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts (NV-A) announced to invest 1,5 billion euro in mobility measures, with among others extra rush hour lanes to improve traffic flow on major highways and ring roads around Brussels and Antwerp, where most of the traffic jams in Belgium occur every day.
Much to the discontent of mobility advisors Karel Brits (city of Dendermonde) and self-employed advisors Dirk Dedoncker and Wouter Florizoone, who question the benefits of this investment in more asphalt in an opinion article in De Standaard on Tuesday.
‘More asphalt doesn’t work’
They say that a better flow during peak hours may become visible on the short-term, but more capacity on the highways will attract more traffic in the long run, leading to traffic jams coming back in time or traffic jams moving to different locations.
They use figures from The Netherlands to prove their point. “Ten years ago in Holland there were already too much traffic jams. The former government of VVD and PvdA decided to invest in extra road capacity with extra highway lanes between Utrecht and Amsterdam and missing links tackled. A few years later the first alarm signs were heard already.”
Economic growth and psychological effect
“The Dutch traffic information service (VID) saw two explanations. Due to economic growth 130.000 new jobs were created and maybe not all new employees, but part of them took the car to go to work.”
“The second explanation was psychological. With the traffic becoming more fluent, other car drivers returned to the rush hours and decided to leave home later in the morning, just like they did before. VID concluded that the measures moved the problem, but didn’t solve it.”