The existing Antwerp ring road R1 is part of the TEN-T core network. At present the R1 is not completely closed: in the north-west a part is missing. Due to insufficient capacity, the R1 faces structural congestions. As a result of its layout and the diversity of road users (transit and urban traffic, freight and passenger transport, etc.), the R1 is confronted with structural safety issues.
At present the Antwerp region has two motorway connections between the river Scheldt left and right bank: the Kennedytunnel and the Liefkenshoektunnel.
In order to solve the bottlenecks and mobility problems in the Antwerp region, a third connection, the Oosterweellink, is of vital importance. This will improve the city and the port’s accessibility, reduce congestion on the southern part of the ring road, increase traffic safety, provide a good transit route for freight traffic and improve the quality of life in the Antwerp region. Closing the ring road around Antwerp will also allow the traffic infrastructure to remain functional in case of calamities.
The Oosterweel link extends over a length of approximately 15 km. By means of a new tunnel under the river Scheldt, the Oosterweel link will connect the E17 (Ghent) and the E34/N49 (Bruges) on the left bank with the E19/A12 motorways towards the Netherlands and E34/E313 towards Liège, Germany and Luxembourg.
The Oosterweel link has been conceived for heavy truck traffic and will shift important traffic streams of the southern axis, to a more northern, shorter trajectory through the port.
To minimize impact, the Oosterweel link has been designed largely, as an underground infrastructure. This approach will result in a functional road link, giving optimal access to the port and the surrounding industrial and economic clusters, while respecting the demands of an urban region in terms of the environment, quality of life and spatial planning.
The Oosterweel link consists of five subprojects. In a nutshell these subprojects are:
1. Linkeroever & Zwijndrecht
The interchanges on the left bank will be completely reconstructed, redesigned and, as much as possible, embedded in the surrounding areas. The interchange with the E17 towards Ghent will be compacted and the dangerous left access lanes towards the Kennedytunnel will be eliminated.
Shortcut traffic will be reduced:
- To facilitate local traffic to the motorway, a new road will be constructed next to the E17 and the E34 in Zwijndrecht
- The new junctions are to be used only by local traffic to Burcht, Zwijndrecht and Linkeroever
- The Waaslandtunnel will be used only by local traffic between Linkeroever and the city centre.
- 9 km of new bicycle paths will connect Zwijndrecht and Linkeroever to the new Scheldt tunnel.
2. The Scheldt tunnel
On the left bank the Scheldt tunnel dives underground between the nature conservation areas Blokkersdijk and Sint-Annabos. At Noordkasteel it resurfaces. This 1,8 km long immersed tunnel will have two tubes for motorway traffic and a separate tube for cyclists and pedestrians.
3. The Oosterweel junction
The Scheldt tunnel will connect to the new Oosterweel junction on the right bank. This junction will provide access to the port of Antwerp and the northern part of the city, Het Eilandje. This intersection is of prime importance for the port to keep freight transport away from the city.
Cyclists who use the Scheldt tunnel to go to the Oosterweel junction will be able to rapidly access the port and Het Eilandje. Easy access to the Scheldt quays will be provided. In total 6 km of additional bicycle paths will be built.
4. The Canal Tunnels
The Canal tunnels will be dual-layered, cut and cover tunnels consisting of 4 tubes, stacked two-by-two. This construction starts at the Amerika dock and passes under the Albert canal. At the east of the Noorderlaan it splits into 2 separate tunnels which connect to the existing ring road R1.
The upper tunnel connects to the R1 in the south, directing to Liège, Luxembourg, Germany (E34/E313) and Brussels (E19) or back to Ghent, closing the ring. The lower tunnel will connect to the R1 in the north, directing towards The Netherlands (E19/A12).
The Merksem viaduct will be taken down. The R1 will be embedded in an open cut tunnel, and in a tunnel under the Albert Canal.
A new junction will be built in Deurne to allow a smooth traffic flow coming from the Ring and the E313 to the Bisschoppenhoflaan and the Noordersingel, and vice versa. As a direct result, shortcut and freight traffic will be reduced in Deurne-Noord and Merksem.
Over the centuries, Antwerp has been, both economically and culturally, one of the most important cities in the Low Countries. With a population of over 500.000, Antwerp is Belgium's most densely populated city. Its metropolitan area, with over 1 million inhabitants, is the second largest area in Belgium, after the capital Brussels.
Antwerp is primarily located on the right bank of the river Scheldt, which is linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary. The city has a vast port area with international freight transport. One of the most important ports in the world, Antwerp ranks second in Europe and within the top 20 globally. The petrochemical activity near Antwerp is of great economic significance. The city is also a world centre for diamond trade.
The Antwerp region is situated at the centre of the Trans European Transport network (TEN-T). Three corridors were introduced to facilitate the coordinated implementation of the TEN-T core network: the North Sea-Baltic Corridor, the Rhine-Alpine Corridor and the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor all pass through the city of Antwerp. These multimodal corridors connect the sea port of Antwerp to the major European ports and cover rail, road, inland waterways, airports, rail terminals and ports.
Antwerp is a major hub for freight and passenger transport and faces daunting mobility challenges.
To improve the accessibility of the Antwerp region, in the late nineties, the Flemish Government launched the Master Plan 2020. This plan focuses on three ambitious goals:
• to ensure the accessibility of city and port
• to improve road safety
• to improve the quality of life in the Antwerp region.
This will be done by realizing a set of multimodal mobility projects and by creating a modal shift towards, for instance, public transportation and cycling.
One of the major projects of the Master Plan 2020 is the Oosterweel link, the capstone of the Antwerp ring road. The new northern ring will unscramble the traffic knot in the Antwerp region.