Austrian super-minister Gewessler kills €2 billion highway project

“I don’t want us to say in 20 years’ time that we have buried billions of taxpayers’ money and poured concrete over our future,” explained Green politician Gewessler, adding that experience had shown that additional streets lead to more traffic. [EPA-EFE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA]

A highway project near Vienna has failed to pass the “climate check” of the climate, environment and transport ministry, the ministry’s chief, Leonore Gewessler, has announced. Her ministry had also blocked another expressway in Lower Austria.

“I don’t want us to say in 20 years’ time that we have buried billions of taxpayers’ money and poured concrete over our future,” explained Green politician Gewessler, adding that experience had shown that additional streets lead to more traffic.

The city of Vienna, governed by the social democrat SPÖ, was particularly irritated by the move. Mayor Michael Ludwig said blocking construction of the new highway amounted to an insult and that he was considering “legal steps”. Vienna’s roads are highly congested. The city is the largest in Austria, with almost 25% of the country’s population, and people commute to the city from surrounding states daily.

The Viennese conservative ÖVP went further. According to them, Gewessler’s decision amounted to “a slap in the face,” and called for concerted steps to challenge the minister.

The political climate in Austria has been fraught in recent weeks following cracks in the governing coalition of the Greens and the conservative ÖVP. These came after a fight over whether former chancellor Sebastian Kurz should step back following investigations of corruption and misuse of state funds.

(Nikolaus J. Kurmayer | EURACTIV.de)

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