This Monday, one of the biggest projects of this legislature is officially starting: the two-way layout of Avenue Van Praet, the northern gateway to the Belgian capital. The companies along the canal fear the worst. “Having a single entry lane to Brussels instead of three is impossible,” they say.
The road works come on top of those just launched on the Vilvoorde viaduct that are expected to last for eight years. “In the project, Brussels Mobility does not consider the economic function of the Region and access to the port area. This is a major axis for industry and the supply of Brussels,” says Jan De Brabanter, spokesperson for Brussels Entreprises Commerce and Industry (BECI), who is “disappointed” by the turn of events.
The Brussels port community is particularly concerned about the plans to narrow the city boulevards that connect the A12. “If we want to make the transition to using the waterway, trucks must also get out of the port.”
In an interview end 2021, Brussels Region’s Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) announced that the Brussels Region intended to transform the last 3-km-long ending strip of the A12 into a green promenade. The three existing townward traffic lanes would gradually be reduced to only one, and speed would be reduced from 90 to 50 km/hour.
The Minister explained that the southern strip of the A12, the part that is situated on Brussels Region’s territory, would be transformed into a promenade. In the concrete plans, only one traffic lane would remain. “The aim of the project is to integrate the traffic axis into the urban and landscape environment and to improve the quality of life for local residents,” the Minister said.
Long traffic jams
Today, the work has started. First, a roundabout on the canal’s side will be created. From the end of the year, Avenue Van Praet will be made two-way. Neighboring businesses fear long traffic jams at the roundabout, where traffic will be reduced to one lane toward Brussels. They’re convinced it will slow down goods and impact accessibility and costs.
However, Brussels Region’s Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) recalls that the draft of the project has been amended several times following requests from companies.
This summer, a new agreement was reached to amend the project, but BECI and the Brussels port deplore a lack of guarantee because the works are starting and the promised modifications, in particular the implementation of a dynamic system allowing to have two bands toward the canal in the morning, are not yet recorded in any permit.
The works on Avenue Van Praet must be coordinated with those of tram 10, so Brussels authorities do not want to postpone the project any longer.