Facelift Brussels ring: improvement or simply more asphalt?
Since the controversial plans for the redevelopment and widening of the Brussels Ring (part North) came up in 2014, opinions are still dived on whether it will be a broadening or an optimization. Recently, the Flemish Government did organize a public consultation, for which it has received 134 official consultation responses. If we can believe these official reactions, the inhabitants of the Flemish periphery are faced with a gigantic concrete area where trees, animals and houses have to make way for. An overview.
More driving lanes
The Brussels Ring will be widened with a line in each direction. In some places this is done within the current bedding, such as on the Vilvoorde viaduct, but elsewhere extra concrete is poured. The Flemish government, for example, is expropriating houses in Zaventem. They have to make way for extra lanes. If everything goes well, the first works will start in 2019, the heavy interventions probably in 2020.
A ring around the ring
There will be a parallel road with the new ring road where you can only travel 70 or 90 kph. It involves two lanes in each direction. The ‘ring road around the ring’ is intended to attract cut-through traffic from the surrounding municipalities. It also separates through traffic from local traffic. The first one drives over the three lanes on the inside, the other over the two lanes on the outside. This will make traffic smoother and safer.
Two new tramlines must get as many commuters as possible out of their cars. In April, the spatial implementation plan for an express tram from Willebroek to Brussels-North was adopted. The financial resources for the tramline have not yet been found. That is a task for the next Flemish government. The same applies for the second planned tramline, which connects Zaventem airport with Brussels North. In the meantime, there will be a ‘trambus’, an extra-long bus that travels two-thirds of its route on its own bed.
There will be five bicycle highways of four meters wide and they cross as few other roads as possible. In some cases, it is a question of eliminating a missing link. In Diegem there will be a bicycle bridge over the ring road. That is a bit of fortune for cyclists from Louvain, who have to make a less far detour to cross the ring road.
These bike highways, such as the F28 along the A12 in Meise, have already been planned for some time, but the construction is now accelerated.
“It’s much more than just a stupid widening”, responds Marijn Struyf of De Werkvennootschap, the vehicle set up by the Flemish government to coordinate the works, to the opinion that the reconstruction is just a broadening instead of an optimization. “The ring is also becoming safer.”
It is precisely for this reason that a number of exits will be removed (probably in Zaventem and in Wemmel), to the dissatisfaction of the local municipalities and residents, who are losing an important approach road. Struyf: “If you want to tackle cut-through traffic, you have to make a number of strategic cuts. Everyone knows that there are too many entries and exits on the Brussels Ring today. In Wemmel alone, there are three. This cannot be justified in a modern transport policy.”
Pressure on the greenery
The most controversial aspect of the reconstruction is the widening in itself: at some locations the number of lanes is being seriously increased, as in Jette, where it goes from eight to fourteen. Environmental organizations and local residents fear that the increase in capacity will attract extra cars and increase the pressure on the greenery next to the ring road, such as the Laarbeek forest.
According to the Flemish government, who has not yet set a target on how many commuters will soon trade the car for the bicycle, carpooling or public transport, this fear is premature: “The extension of the ring will be on the other side”.