Brussels to convert highways into ‘city boulevards’
As of next week, the E40 and A12 are officially no longer a highway on Brussels territory. These busy highways are being transformed into ‘city boulevards’, which means fewer and narrower lanes, and the speed limit will gradually decrease from 120 km/hour to 50 km/hour. “This will not only improve the quality of life but also the air quality”, says Brussels Minister of Mobility, Pascal Smet (sp.a).
Every day more than 75.000 people drive along the E40 in the east or via the A12 in the north into the capital. From next week on, both parts, each good for about one and a half kilometres, will become narrower.
The E40 shrinks toward the capital from six to four lanes. The capacity of the A12 will decrease three to two lanes in both directions. As compensation, there will be a large interchange in the north, with connections to the Brussels tram network, though slowing down traffic increases road capacity.
Scars on Brussels
“The highways are scars on Brussels”, says Brussels Minister of Mobility, Pascal Smet. “It’s a relic from the 1950s that you bring the car to the city via highways. We are keeping traffic jams outside our city limits from now on, after the example of many European cities.”
The mayors from the region around Louvain expressed their fears in a joint standpoint. They fear that the traffic jams of cars entering Brussels via the E40 will more often and for a longer period converge with the traffic that runs along the E40 to the Ring Road, and when you bring two traffic jams together, you’ll get a square of it.
According to Smet, this fear is unjustified. “The work on the tunnels alone has reduced the number of cars there from 60.000 to 45.000 a day”, he says. “When things go less smoothly, people adjust their habits.” The Brussels government assumes that they will do the same in this case. “The more space you give cars, the more they come.”
The narrowing of the motorways will be done ‘gradually’. There is no precise timing. The speed reduction will probably take place in the shorter term. As soon as the works on the tunnel complex in the east have been completed – certainly before the summer – the speed there will be limited to 50 km/hour and one lane will disappear.
Entering a city
“We want to make it immediately clear to people that they are entering a city and no longer on the highway”, says Brussels Prime Minister, Rudi Vervoort (PS). “We want to give the district an urban character again. Then these interventions are logical.”
In the east of the capital, the revision of the E40 fits into a broader project covering the district. It should become ‘a neighbourhood with a certain appearance’, with at its heart the new building of the public broadcasters VRT and RTBF.
The remaining space will be used for a city park, housing, local shops and a cinema. In the margins of the city boulevard E40, cycle paths will be surrounded by greenery.
Reducing commuter traffic
The plans, which date back to 2010 and have invariably led to a great deal of consternation, fit in with the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (GPDO) approved by the Brussels government. The GPDO also stipulates that commuter traffic to and from the Brussels-Capital Region must decrease by 20% by 2025.