I.In Austria, a 19 kilometer long road construction project for the eastern bypass of Vienna, which has been discussed and planned for many years, will not be built for the time being. Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) decided on Wednesday to end the tunneling under the Lobau nature reserve at a depth of 60 meters, including connecting routes and the north-eastern bypass, the cost of which the state motorway company Asfinag, which was involved in the planning, had estimated at almost 2 billion euros.
Gewessler earned a lot of praise from environmental associations, non-governmental organizations and construction opponents who persevered in protest camps, but also sharp rejection and opposition from the affected provincial governments in Vienna and Lower Austria. Representatives of the business community were just as strong in favor of the project as the coalition partner ÖVP at federal level, who called the vote “completely incomprehensible”.
Greens are showing increasing self-confidence towards the ÖVP
Gewessler’s vote, which was not unexpected, can thus be read as a sign of the relatively increased strength of the Greens in the coalition government after the ÖVP lost its approval following the departure of Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) following the investigation by the public prosecutor. There is also a crunch in other policy areas such as fighting pandemics in the government, which has been headed by ÖVP politician Alexander Schallenberg as Chancellor since mid-October.
The tensions cause the discussion about possible new elections and a traffic light alliance based on the German model in the first half of 2022 to flare up again and again. All the more so since the coalition has implemented important projects such as the eco-social tax reform with the introduction of CO2 prices, which is important to the Greens, as well as a cheaper train ticket for all of Austria.
The reform of the promotion of green electricity with the expansion of renewable generation to 100 percent of consumption in 2030, which has also been resolved, is still hampered by the lack of approval from the EU Commission. It demands more technology-neutral tenders for electricity from wind, solar and hydropower than the government would like to allow. Vienna prefers to promote each technology individually.
The green minister is committed to cycling and train travel
The avowed cyclist and train rider Gewessler, who is also responsible for climate, energy and traffic, incurred the wrath of many red and black state governments when she announced a climate policy review of many road construction projects in the summer. Some expressways have already fallen victim to this.
However, the route through the Lobau and the north-east bypass of Vienna, which has been the hot topic of discussion for years, are the most prominent. Its proponents had hoped that this would also relieve heavy goods traffic in the capital and calculated with 77,000 fewer vehicles per day. Critics of the project, however, held that the road would generate more traffic – which should be prevented for climate protection reasons.
The minister wants to meet her critics with a concession. Even if the tunnel and the outer ring expressway should not be built and the motorway ring around Vienna should not be completed, a road link, which is also planned, could be built to develop the new Seestadt district east of the Danube. Vienna’s Mayor Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) said. In the matter “the last word has not yet been spoken”. However, its coalition partner, the Neos, also rejects the project.
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