Transport policy in Linz: Transport policy from the Stone Age

In Italy the rivers are dry, in Burgenland the groundwater level is falling massively and the whole of Austria is already suffering from heat waves in June.

In addition, there are record prices for petrol and diesel, which have made people desperately look for alternatives.

Actually, we should now pull all the levers in motion to quickly promote soft mobility, that is, the expansion of public transport and the bicycle network.

Nevertheless, this week in Linz’s municipal council voted with the votes of SPÖ, ÖVP, FPÖ and Neos to build the motorway junction Auhof [1]. Although there is no longer a vote on the construction itself. There is a vote on whether the cost increase of almost 65% will be accepted by the municipal council and paid for by the city of Linz. Even before construction begins, it is clear that the estimated cost will increase from 19 million euros to 32 million euros (including VAT). The huge price increases in 2022 have not even been taken into account. The city’s share is a third of the costs, ie just over 10 million euros [2].

Transport policy from the Stone Age

Even without a more detailed analysis, it is clear that the cost of this project is not commensurate with the social benefit. The project was first planned in the 1990s. Apparently no one since then has asked themselves if the project is still up to date. For now in 2022, as already announced in 2011, 2014, 2019, 2020 and 2021, construction should finally begin [3][4].

But who benefits from this highway entrance. First of all, it must be said that an ascent or descent will only be possible from the direction of Linz. Students from Mühlviertel will continue to use the Treffling or Dornach exits.

Public transport will not benefit from the motorway access. No new bus connections are planned and money that is urgently needed for the expansion of public transport will instead be spent on a motorway.

It also does not benefit cycling. On the contrary. The planned main cycle route Linz – Gallneukirchen has not yet been completed. According to a document from the Land of Upper Austria from 2020, a construction date can “not yet be estimated”, on the contrary, the existing connection will be disconnected. The “replacement” is an overgrown bridge with steps, as can be seen on Google Street View. The bicycle lobby has already reported a lot here. [2]

And what about car traffic? The Treffling exit is 3.1 km away and the Dornach exit is only 1.3 km from the site. Both can be reached in less than 5 minutes by car. This means that 32 million euros will be burned off for a time saving of 5 minutes, which in reality will probably not be possible due to the heavy morning traffic. And commuters from Mühlviertel who want to go to JKU will still have to use the Treffling exit.

It is already well known that more roads do not distribute traffic better, but instead generate even more traffic due to the better offer. VCÖ has prepared a detailed analysis for this: https://www.vcoe.at/publikationen/vcoe-factsheets/detail/ausbau-der-Infrastruktur-auf-klimakurs-machen. It could also be seen at the completion of the railway bridge and the bypass bridges. For despite these two new bridge connections, the queue situation has not improved. The only durable remedy against traffic jams is to allow people to switch to public transportation or bicycles. More bike paths mean fewer traffic jams.

It would make much more sense to invest the 32 million euros in the expansion of public transport and the bicycle network instead of in a motorway connection used by only a small minority of motorists. It is completely incomprehensible why politicians are so insistent on this outdated project.

One possibility would be to establish a bus line on the planned route for the later Stadtbahn to Gallneukirchen. Buses could be bought quickly and cheaply and used elsewhere after construction. This concept of “precursor lines” has long been proven in other countries and can lead to rapid improvements for public transport users. For traffic coming from the southern part of the city, express bus lines can be an attractive alternative to the car.

Here’s a little comparison: The current renewal of the Linz AG bus fleet costs 36 million euros. 88 buses were purchased. Instead of the motorway connection, Linz AG’s bus fleet could be increased by 50%.

And who pays?

Who actually pays for the highway exit? The answer is clear: future generations. And in several respects. On the one hand, according to media reports, the financing must be done with “external funds”, ie with money that the city does not have. Linz city’s share is 1/3 of the construction cost. According to the current status, it is around 10 million euros. It can be assumed that this amount will increase further when the project is completed. Anyone who is familiar with business knows that investing should pay back the necessary expenses in the long run. In the case of infrastructure, this is often not easy to quantify, as there are indirect effects such as health consequences such as noise and exhaust fumes or positive effects on the economy that are not so easy to quantify. The fact that the indirect effects in this case would recoup an investment of 32 million is extremely unrealistic.

But future generations will also pay for this decision in a different way. With the construction of the highway connection, the car system is literally cemented in place. Then there is no more money for the expansion of soft mobility, ie public transport and cycle paths, or the users will be set aside for later. This could very well be seen during the construction of the railway bridge, where car traffic is rolling, but the promised rails are still missing.

So..?

For a sustainable and modern Linz, it is important that attention is finally focused on the extension of soft mobility. The time for oversized highway projects is over. It is now time to expand buses, trains and bicycles. The money is obviously there, they just need to be used for the right projects. Other cities and countries are far ahead of us here. It is time that we also follow the time in Linz.

Sources:
[1] https://www.linz.at/Politik/GRsessions/Grsessions/GrDetail?GrId=140
[2] https://www.meinbezirk.at/linz/c-politik/deutlicher-kostenwachsen-bei-a7-autobahnhalbverbinder-auhof_a5416441
[3] https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20091127_OTS0072/asfinag-a-7-muehlkreis-autobahn-verbindungsstelle-auhof-startshot-fuer-uvp
[4] https://www.meinbezirk.at/linz/c-lokales/a7-halbverbinder-auhof-komm-2020_a2242553
[5] https://www.radlobby.at/oberoesterreich/a7-halbverbindungsstelle-auhof-droht-barriere-fuer-radverkehr-zu- Werden

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