Representatives of business and motorists have criticised a decision by the Brussels region to downgrade the A12 and E40 motorways within the regional boundary as “city boulevards”.
The decision to reclassify the two roads means that at some time in the future, speed limits will be brought down from 120 km/h to 50 km/h. In addition, the roads will be reduced from three lanes for each carriageway to 2×2, creating space for other means of transport, such as buses and bicycles. At the level of the Reyers tunnel complex leading into and out of town, the current six carriageways will be reduced to four each way.
The E40 will no longer broaden out from two to three carriageways at the Evere exit, but remain at two. The A12, meanwhile, will reduce from three carriageways to two at Strombeek-Bever, where it enters the region from Antwerp. Speeds on the E40 will be restricted to 50 km/h in the summer, with the A12 following later.
Employers organisation Voka complained that there was no consultation over the changes before they were announced, and no alternatives considered. “They’re going to take an important access road to Brussels – an aorta, to put it like that – and shrink it down, make it narrower, and that won’t work if there are no alternatives,” said spokesperson Kasper Demol of Voka. “We’re all in favour of a city boulevard, on the condition that there are first investments in alternatives.” Among those supported by Voka: cycle highways and tram lines
Local people living in the areas of the city along the roads concerned worry that one of those alternatives will be local streets, which some drivers will choose in order to avoid the bottlenecks expected by the new situation. In the neighbourhood long the E40 before the tunnels, residents complained of an increase in traffic last year when work was being carried out on the tunnels – traffic which they fear will become a permanent feature.
Motoring organisation Touring, meanwhile, called for a test phase for the region’s plan, to measure the impact of the changes before any permanent changes to infrastructure are carried out.
“They are thinking of alternatives, of park and ride schemes, of extending the tram network, but nothing ever comes of any of it,” said Danny Smagghe, spokesperson for the organisation.
“The people who call for us to consider alternatives are the same people who always want everything for the car,” Brussels mobility minister Smet told Bruzz. “They want to slow everything down with the consideration of alternatives, and in the end nothing happens.”