RENDSBURG, GERMANY- It’s one of the longest and highest bridges in Schleswig-Holstein: 1457 meters long, 30 meters wide and 50 meters high above the Baltic-North Sea Canal. The Europabrücke, locally known as the Rader Hochbrücke, is one of the most heavily travelled bridges in northern Germany, carrying the main artery connecting Flensburg and all points in Scandanavia to the north and Hamburg and all points to the south, the motorway A7. Built in 1972, the cantilever deck bridge has reached the end of its useful life.
Unlike the April Fools joke involving neighboring Rendsburg High Bridge in 2013, this is a serious matter.
According to sources from shz.de, plans are in the making to replace the bridge with a wider and sturdier structure with plans to have the structure replaced in 12 years’ time. Two factors influence the decision by the Ministry of Transportation in Berlin and the state authorities in Kiel to replace the 43-year old bridge. First and foremost, inspection reports revealed wear and tear on the bridge’s deck, caused by extreme weather conditions, salt and debris from the canal it spans and lastly, too much traffic on the bridge. The bridge was closed for several weeks in 2013 because of spalling cracks in the concrete that needed to be patched. This resulted in chaos for travellers needed to detour through the tunnel in Rendsburg, the transporter portion of the Rendsburg High Bridge in order to get across or even the ferries near the city, just to name many alternatives. The second factor for the bridge replacement is because the motorway is being widened from its present four lanes to six lanes, between Hamburg and Flensburg. Already underway is the stretch between Neumünster and Quickborn, the widening process will include replacing over four dozen bridges built in the 1950s, widening the present lanes and adding one additional one in each direction to ensure that travelling this stretch is safer than before. This stretch of A7 has been notorious for several accidents and traffic jams, especially near Hamburg. The bridge replacement will be part of the next stretch of highway to be widened.
While the design-phase is in its infancy, the plan is to build one half of the replacement span wide enough for four lanes of traffic. After shifting traffic onto the new span, the old span will be torn down and replaced with the second half of the replacement span. The plan is to have the bridge completed by 2027.
Yet pressure is being applied by German Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt to start construction of the new bridge as soon as possible, giving designers up to 18 months to complete the process before construction starts. The project is being considered for federal support by officials in Berlin. How long the designing process and the impact surveys will take place as well as when construction will start remains open. But given the critical situation of the bridge and the motorway, the bridge will most likely move up the priority ladder quickly so that work can start at the latest next year.
Judging by the bridge’s modern appearance, from the photographer’s and pontist’s point of view, the bridge appeared to be functioning great and its sleak design makes it one of the crossings worth seeing while biking aling the Grand Canal. However, looks can be deceiving when looking at the cracks in the concrete. Given the recent bridge collapse in Cincinnati a few weeks ago, politicians and engineers are wasting no time getting the project moving forward in Rendsburg.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest with the bridge. Together with sister column The Flensburg Files, a series on projects in Schleswig-Holstein is being produced to give travellers an idea what to expect in the coming months.
A series on the Bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal was produced by the Chronicles. The Europabrücke is found here.
The Flensburg Files is doing a quiz series on the 16 German states as part of the country’s 25th anniversary celebration. The first one on Schleswig-Holstein you can find here. The answers will come on 24 March.
And like the Files, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is currently undergoing an upgrade to internet status. Articles will continue to be posted during the construction proces, which is expected to take a few weeks to complete. So stay here and enjoy the articles to come.