Vilvoorde Viaduct is to undergo a major renovation that will take some eight years to carry out. Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters (Open VLD) has announced this.
The viaduct, one of the busiest traffic points in Western Europe with an average of about 150 000 vehicles passing over it every day, had become slightly more fatigued than expected due to intensive use, and therefore the entire structure of the bridge will receive a thorough renovation. The cost of the project is estimated at over 500 million euros.
Vilvoorde Viaduct, which is part of the Brussels Rong R0 and spans the Brussels-Scheldt Canal, was designed in the 1970s to last 100 years. Just under 50 years later, however, the structure, which officially opened in July 1978, is in poor condition. Today, 90 000 vehicles travel daily in both directions over the bridge, which has two times three lanes and a breakdown lane, has 22 rows of piers, an average height of 35 meters, and is 1,7 kilometers long.
The renovation by De Werkvennootschap will not only strengthen the superstructure but also address the supporting structure, the joint appliances, and the interior. The bridge’s concrete has deteriorated in some places, due to meltwater and road salt. Due to heavy loads, the steel is also showing fatigue here and there. Like many structures dating from the 1970s, the Viaduct contains an asbestos-containing coating. This will also be remediated.
The first phase of the works will start in August and last until 2026. During those years, the three lanes will remain open in each direction but will be narrowed. A speed limit of 50 km/h will apply.
A new phase will start in 2027, with three lanes in one direction and two in the other remaining open. During that phase, the Werkvennootschap expects a lot of disruption. In principle, the project could be carried out faster by closing more lanes at the same time, but that would cause more disruption.
In time, the renovation will allow a fourth lane to be opened on the bridge in each direction. This would come on the current breakdown one, allowing the renovated bridge to keep its current width. The bridge will also get new lighting and asphalt with the most noise-reducing properties allowed on a motorway.
Plus-minus five-fold increase in price
The cost of the project is thus estimated at over 500 million euros. In 2019, when an initial study was conducted, the project was still estimated at 100 million euros. “Meanwhile, we are faced with much higher raw material prices and high inflation”, Minister Peeters said. “Moreover, the bridge turned out to be in a worse condition than initially thought, and the removal of the asbestos was not included. That all plays into the higher price.”
Other works planned for the Ring Road
The Brussels Ring Road is also being redesigned but there is no exit timing yet for those works, which would take 10 years. However, nine interventions with a direct impact on the Ring Road are planned for this year and next year. For example, two bridge renovations are planned for Halle, but with moderate implications for traffic.
Major work is also planned in the aging tunnels of the Léonard junction, at the intersection of the Ring and the E411. At the Groenendael junction, a major construction project is still underway until the end of 2023 for the creation of the Priory Eco-recreaduct.
In Zaventem, the interchange at Henna Avenue will continue to be redesigned until May 2024. There will be closures during the installation of the new bridge in June. Several joint renewal operations are also planned in April and May, with limited inconvenience at the Groot-Bijgaarden and Woluwe-Saint-Étienne interchange.
No major works are planned on the Brussels sections of the Ring.
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