The most significant transformation brought about by Oosterweel will undoubtedly occur in the northern part of Antwerp. The familiar Antwerp Ring Road (R1) as we know it today will undergo a major overhaul. The Merksem Viaduct will be dismantled to make room for a lowered, partially covered ring road set below ground level. Consequently, the existing R1 Ring Road will no longer be visible, creating a vast open space for sports, recreation, and play.
The conversion from a viaduct to a sunken ring road with park areas is a substantial undertaking. To ensure uninterrupted traffic flow during the construction, we will initially establish a Bypass or temporary motorway. This Bypass will serve as an alternative route to the current ring road, allowing us to divert traffic away from the Deurne and Merksem districts during construction. Simultaneously, the Bypass will ensure a safe and predictable traffic environment.
The Bypass will be situated on the eastern side of the current ring road, running alongside the 'Sportpaleis,' commencing at the R1/E313 intersection (Antwerpen-oost) and concluding at the E19/12 intersection (Antwerpen-noord) near the Jozef Masurebrug in Merksem.
The Bypass will feature three traffic lanes in each direction and will be roughly at the same elevation as the existing ring road.
The Bypass construction is divided into two parts:
- a northern section, from Antwerpen-Noord (E19/A12 x R1) to he Sportpaleis.
- an eastern section, from the Sportpaleis to Antwerpen-Oost (E313 x R1).
- Works on the motorway will start in 2024. In the process, we will take up one traffic lane of the R1 ringroad in the direction of the Netherlands. Three narrowed traffic lanes (3.2 meters) will stay available near the Sportpaleis. There will also be alterations at the intersection Antwerpen-Oost (R1 x E313).
- Vaartkaai will be closed between Bredabaan and Kotterstraat and set up as a construction road- and zone.
- Environmental permit application for Bypass Oost (from intersection Antwerpen – Oost to Sportpaleis).
- Bypass comes into use. First, traffic lanes will open in the direction of the Netherlands.
- Opening Bypass in the direction of Ghent/Brussels.
- Opening of the new and partially covered ringroad and closing of the Bypass.
2030 - ...
- Demolition of the Bypass and further work is done on the coverings and surroundings.
How are the works progressing?
Before we start constructing the actual Bypass, preparatory works need to be done. We have relocated cables, pipes and sewage, and are modifying roads and bicycle paths in order to createspace for the future lowered ringroad and the Bypass.
Prior to the construction of the northern part of the Bypass, the environment permit was submitted. The northern part covers the section of the Bypass between the Sportpaleis and Jozef Masurebrug/ intersection Antwerpen-Noord (A12 x E19) in Merksem. In the autumn of 2023, the city of Antwerp carried out a public inquiry. The same procedure for the eastern section of the Bypass (between Sportpaleis and the intersection Antwerpen-Oost (E313 x R1) will follow in 2024.
Early 2024, we will break ground for the construction of the Bypass, which will take more than two years.
As soon as the Bypass is completed, we will dismantle a first section of the existing viaduct and begin the construction of tunnels and trenches for the new lowered ringroad. In 2030 you will be driving on the brand-new lowered ringroad and we will be demolishing the Bypass. After that, the surroundings will be given a green facelift.
Impact of the works on traffic
Ijzerlaan cycle bridge remains accessible
We are committed to ensuring that the Ijzerlaan cycle bridge remains accessible to cyclists to the greatest extent possible. To achieve this, we will be making modifications to the bridge access ramps. Temporary closures of the bridge will only occur when we are actively working on the bridge deck, such as when installing the Bypass's beams or demolishing the viaduct. These bridge deck-related activities will be scheduled during weekends and nights.
To construct the Bypass - and then the lowered ringroad - the Vaartkaai in Merksem will be closed. From Bredabaan (at Ijzerlaan cycle bridge) to Tjalkstraat, the Vaartkaai will become construction zone, closing it to regular traffic and cyclists for several years. We will provide detours.
There is one less traffic lane in the direction of the Netherlands
In early 2024, to make room for the construction site, we will temporarily occupy one lane of the R1 ring road near the Sportpaleis in the direction of the Netherlands for approximately one kilometer. Despite this, three traffic lanes will remain open.
Alterations to Antwerpen-Oost Intersection
We will be implementing changes to the traffic configuration at the Antwerpen-Oost intersection (R1 x E313). Specifically, the E313 exit onto the R1 ring road in the direction of the Netherlands will be reduced to a single lane, and adjustments will be made to the weave zone connecting this exit with Exit Deurne. Please note that Exit Deurne will remain accessible.
Additionally, when the Bypass at Antwerpen Oost is operational, we will be separating the traffic at the Deurne exit from the traffic to and from the E313. This measure is aimed at enhancing safety in the area, which should ultimately result in fewer accidents and reduced traffic congestion.
Measures to Minimize Disruption
The Oosterweel link represents a transformation towards a quieter, greener, and healthier neighborhood. However, it's important to acknowledge that this development may cause some inconvenience. We are committed to minimizing disruptions for residents, road users, and businesses to the best of our abilities.
The Bypass will be situated closer to residential areas compared to the current R1 ring road. To mitigate noise, we will be installing 4-meter-high sound barriers, limiting the maximum speed on the Bypass to 70 kilometers per hour, and using a quieter road surface. Continuous monitoring of air quality, noise levels, and vibrations around the Bypass will be conducted. If any exceedances of the established standards are detected, prompt corrective measures will be implemented. This approach ensures that we manage the impact on people, wildlife, the environment, and infrastructure effectively.