Peter Tucker paints the area around the Royal Palace on Drottningholm. Photo: Gabriel Stein
Major construction project

A bypass divides politicians and residents

4:08 min

Only one major highway passes through Stockholm. It is a problem city planners have been trying to solve for decades. What they needed to do was figure out a way to connect a growing region that has an impossible geography.

The city center of Stockholm is at the exact point where the sprawling Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. It is beautiful, but all the water divides the city. The only way to get from south to north by car or truck is to drive right through it. The solution, say politicians and city planners, is to build the "Stockholm Bypass". They will break ground in 2013. But the highway is controversial.

Peter Tucker is an artist who moved to Sweden in 1969, after falling in love with a Swedish au pair, whom he met in the UK.

He has lived on the island of Lovön, near the Royal Palace on Drottningholm, for 30 years. His home and the palace sits on a World Heritage site.

He loves it there. Tucker is passionate about painting and the culture of the place. He is also one of the most outspoken critics of the Stockholm Bypass.

"Any motorway obviously has an effect where it passes, but it's the network of supply roads that lead off from the motorway in all directions which actually causes most of the disruption to the landscape and the culture," Tucker says.

The Stockholm Bypass is expected to cost $3.7 billion. It is a six-lane highway that is mostly underground - 21 kilometers in total. It will be a little less than half the length of the Chunnel between France and England. And it is supposed to take ten years to build.

The plans have been approved and the Transport Agency says shovels will hit the dirt next year. One of the major goals of the project, they say, is to bypass a highway called the Essingeleden, the busiest road in the country which zooms past western Stockholm.

"In a city of this size, having only one crossing means this is a very vulnerable city," says Johan Brantmark, the project director for the Stockholm Bypass. "The Bypass is a supplement to Essingeleden, it will also increase the capacity across the Mälaren, and it will allow public transport from the south of the city to the north."

Brantmark says Stockholm is growing fast, and the infrastructure needs to grow with the city.

The center-right parties of the government coalition are big fans of the project. The largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, also supports it.

While many residents and all of the environmental organizations object to the tunnel road, most polls show that the majority of the population supports it.

"People on these islands don't have to worry because the traffic will be reduced," says Ulla Hamilton, a Moderate party politician and vice-mayor of Stockholm.

"Stockholm is growing and the question is how to deal with that issue. When you are investing in this Bypass, you're also increasing the possibility for public transport and rapid bus transport," she says.

But the Green Party and the Left Party despise this road project.

"It's a disaster. It should not be built. It's a waste of money and it's going to endanger our environment," says Daniel Heldén, the head of the Greens in Stockholm. "The best thing to do is to build public transportation."

Indeed, a new poll commissioned by his party shows support dropping for the Bypass. But even this is contentious, because the Transport Agency says they have their own polls and surveys, and they show that there is, in fact, popular support for the project.

But no matter how many polls and surveys are done, one person who will never be in favor, is the artist on Lovön, Peter Tucker.

"The Swedish Transport Agency has to carry out basically what the government says," Tucker says.

"They have a very close ear to the ground to know what the leaders of this country – the big economic interests, want. And these are the people they really serve."

By: Gabriel Stein

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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