`Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen commits to major overhaul of old bridges and tunnels
Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructure and Water Management) will be revamping and renovating old bridges and tunnels. In these efforts, the Minister will be employing innovative technologies, in order to ensure that potential defects will come to light at an earlier stage. This will help prevent failures that cause tailbacks. In the schedule of operations, the Minister intends to give priority to bridges that are pivotal for traffic circulation. The overhauls will be closely coordinated with the regional authorities in order to minimise any disruption during the major maintenance measures in the years ahead.
In collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat, the executive branch of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Minister yesterday kicked off a major revamping and renovation effort of the existing infrastructure. Rijkswaterstaat has identified at least 80 objects that are in need of restoration up to the year 2028. Many bridges and tunnels date from the 1950s and 1960s, and are due for major overhaul. Failure and malfunctions are causing disruption, tailbacks, and economic loss. Growing mobility only increases such impact. Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen: ‘I intend to combat tailbacks. This requires more attention to be paid to the maintenance of existing bridges and tunnels. Investment in existing infrastructure is immensely effective in reducing tailbacks.’
In view of the scope of the maintenance efforts, the Minister will be setting aside an annual 350 million euros for the restoration measures with effect from 2020, rather than the current 150 million euros per annum. Projects have already been launched for forty objects. This year, the Minister will decide on the order in which another forty objects will be tackled, keeping a sharp eye on the potential social damage that could arise if a bridge or tunnel needs to be closed. This means that the impact of malfunctions will weigh more heavily in the prioritisation.
The Minister aims to utilise the maintenance efforts to render the infrastructure ready for the future. ‘We are not only looking to extend life spans; our main focus is on the application of the latest technologies that will help to prevent future malfunctions. Thus, we will ensure that our infrastructure meets the requirements for future use.’ An important condition in this respect is that the technological innovations are safe and cyber secure.
In addition, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen aims to render the infrastructure more sustainable, for example with bridges and locks operating in an energy neutral manner, and by the reuse of materials such as asphalt.
Rijkswaterstaat Zuid-Holland (WNZ) is facing a particularly substantial maintenance tasking for the years ahead. For example, no less than eight major bridges, including the Haringvliet bridge and the Van Brienenoord bridge, require major repairs.
Although traffic delays are inevitable, Rijkswaterstaat will make agreements with the province, the municipalities, road network managers, and private parties in order to keep the region as accessible as possible.