Oosterweel yard: this year mainly works on Right Bank

The focus of the Oosterweel works this year will be on the Right Bank of the river Scheldt. The first utility works in Antwerp are underway, but this autumn, both the construction of the bypass, temporarily replacing the Merksem viaduct, and the construction of the channel tunnels under the Albert Canal will start.

In recent years, the Oosterweel yard was mainly located on Antwerp’s Left Bank and in Zwijndrecht. Despite problems with PFAS/PFOS contamination, the yard is ahead of schedule there, and the main infrastructure is almost complete.

Bypass and channel tunnels

Oosterweel builder Lantis, for instance, says that in May/June, the first part of the fully redesigned Antwerp-West interchange between E17, E34, and R1 at the Kennedy Tunnel will be put into use. Consequently, the temporary diversion road north of the E34 and its extension, Charles de Coster Avenue, will close permanently.

Gradually, the center of gravity of the Oosterweel works is thus shifting eastward toward the Right Bank. The tunnel elements of the Scheldt tunnel are being built in a construction dock in Zeebrugge and will not come to Antwerp until 2025, but in the meantime, preparations are already being made for the Oosterweel junction, where the tunnel will connect to the channel tunnels leading to the Sportpaleis area. The Samga dock will already be filled in, and the Oosterweel Road in the port area will be moved.

At the Sportpaleis, pipelines are currently being moved mainly to free up space for the temporary bypass with two times three lanes. This should, therefore, replace the Merksem viaduct, which is due to be demolished in anticipation of the channel tunnels and the deepened Antwerp ring road. Construction of the bypass will start this autumn.

€5,4 billion price tag

If all goes according to plan, the Oosterweel link will be in use in January 2031, although there is still a serious PFAS problem looming on the Right Bank too, for example, at the Lobroek dock. “That remains the ambition,” says Lantis CEO Luc Hellemans. “Completing the liveability projects will probably take a little longer, but we maintain the ambition to implement everything as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, raw material price increases and inflation are not making the cost picture any less challenging. ‘The task-setting budget is currently already hovering around 5,4 billion euros,” says Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld).

“For the Channel Tunnels alone, an amount of almost 900 million euros is included in our investment plan. The liveability projects were initially estimated at 1,2 billion euros, but now sit at 2,4 billion euros. Huge sums, but the investments are necessary for mobility, road safety, and liveability.”


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