Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Eifel Gap Story

In the 1920s.....some Germans sat down and dreamed up the autobahn system.  I know.....most people will say that the Nazis were the chief architects of the current autobahn system, but the vision and planning stage all took place in the 1920s....way ahead of the Nazi government that came after 1932.  The first big section of autobahn occurred in 1937.

So, this is an essay about Autobahn 1.  This was the western autobahn.....going north to south.  The southern point was Saarbrucken.  The northern point, 730 km, went to Heiligenhafen (near Hamburg).

With eighty years having passed....you'd think that the 730 km planned Autobahn 1 was finished.  Well....no.

This week, the Pfalz government got around to what is referred to as the "Eifel Gap".  It's a chunk of the autobahn which has never been finished.  Roughly.....25 km.....15 miles.  If you look north on a map.....about forty kilometers north of Bitburg, you will find Autobahn 1 ending at one point and starting at another point.

There was a surge which went on with autobahns across all of Germany in the 1950s to the 1970s.  Tons of money was put into the completion of various stages.  Then....in the Pfalz region....things hit a brick wall.  You can find five or six cases where things slowed down drastically or just plain stopped.  In the Kaiserslautern region....the autobahn to connect it with Mainz?  This didn't get done until the late 1990s.

The plans for the Eifel Gap have been ironed out and await Pfalz state approval.  The problems?  It requires roughly 500 million Euro.  No one really says with confidence that the money will exist in the 2017 budget.  The other issue is a massive fight by conservationists that the heavily wooded habitat of this region will be threaten by the autobahn.  Oddly, the conservationists face angry villagers who hate having trucks drive through their small towns to get from the end-point on the south to the end-point on the north.  Petitions with over 30,000 signatures have been presented to urge the government to finish up the project.  Virtually every town in the entire region is advocating the completion of the project.

Why do gaps exist?  This is one of the odd features of German society which don't make much sense.  I've yet to ever hear a comment from any journalists or political figure in explaining why delay tactics would make any sense.  The continual fight by conservationists?  They've actually made themselves targets by the general public in these regions with trucking traffic increasing year by year.  There is almost no positive trend for conservationists as long as episodes like this occur.

The odds that this will all be approved?  I have my doubts. If they do approve it.....then funding has to occur, and perhaps within a three-year period....it'd all be completed.  Well....maybe.

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