Crucial ruling over new Gothenburg bridge this week
Several municipalities in western Sweden have gone to court to try to stop the building of a new bridge in Gothenburg because they fear it will be too low to allow enough maritime traffic through. A court ruling is expected Wednesday.
The Göta Älv bridge connects central Gothenburg with the Hisingen island, where a lot of the city's growth has taken place in the last decade. But the bridge, built in 1939 is nearing the end of its life, and the plan is to replace it by 2020. However, the planned new bridge, will be seven metres lower than the current one, which worries the municipalities further along the river.
"We are concerned for the shipping on Göta Älv, and on Lake Vänern. We have several companies that are dependent on transportation on water and get all of their supplies on the waterways," said Paula Örn, mayor of Ale, a municipality just north of Gothenburg.
The current bridge allows for ships up to 19 metres high, while the new bridge, in its normal state, will only let ships up to 12 metres through. But the plan is to make it a lift bridge, and in its open state, it will allow ships up to 27 metres through. But that does not ease the concerns of the municipalities north of Gothenburg.
"Of course it is possible to open the bridge, but then you also come into conflict with traffic that has to pass the bridge, pedestrians and bicycles and public transportation. So many people see that in the future there could be a big conflict between the need to open the bridge and the need to keep it closed," said Paula Örn.
Stefan Eglinger, the director General of Gothenburg Urban Transport Administration, says that the bridge is at the very heart of the city, close to the main railway station and crucial for the efforts to connect Hisingen to the rest of the city. They want to build a denser city, with more homes, offices and services. The vision is of a bridge that is more like a street, than a bridge.
"This particular bridge, the design of it as well as the height of the bridge, is the result of a combined evaluation of different aspects of what we need, both in terms of transport on the river and transport over the river, the possibility to integrate the bridge into a good city design, to make it a street in the city and not just an infrastructure object above the city or as an obstacle for the city development," he told Radio Sweden.
Mayor Paula Örn in Ale says the issue is complex, and that is why they want the courts to review the arguments for and against the lower bridge and come with a ruling.
"Ale municipality also benefits from the development of Gothenburg. That is a key factor of regional development in this area, the city of Gothenburg is very important for all the surrounding municipalities," she said, but warned that "if we reduce the things that we can transport on ships, we might increase transport on lorries on our roads, and nobody wants that, not us and not the city of Gothenburg."
But according to Eglinger the maritime traffic "is a concern that has been taken into consideration and we have a solution that we are comfortable with".
The current, taller, bridge is opened one to two times per day. With the existing traffic on the water, the lower bridge would have to be opened three to five times per day. If traffic on the water increases, Gothenburg city council has promised that they would open the bridge up to 15 times per day, apart from during rush hour in the over-bridge traffic.
There are eight municipalities, including Ale, that have appealed the plans to the Land and Environment Court of Appeal, and a ruling is expected on Wednesday.
Stefan Eglinger from the Gothenburg Urban Transport Administration hopes they will win, so that they can start building the bridge, which has already been delayed for a year, because of the appeals.
Paula Örn in Ale says they will await Wednesday's judgment, before deciding whether to appeal a previous ruling, from earlier this week, in an administrative court.