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Roadworks restart in Flanders, profiting from drop in traffic

15:01 07/04/2020
From Flanders Today

Roadworks are restarting across Flanders, under strict health and safety conditions because of the coronavirus. The aim is to make as much progress as possible while traffic levels are low, and to restart a part of the economy where health risks can be controlled.

“At the moment we have the advantage that there is much less traffic on our roads, and we should make the most of this for roadworks,” said Lydia Peeters, Flemish minister of mobility and public works.

Roughly 300 transport infrastructure projects were underway in Flanders when the corona crisis hit, with work ceasing on more than half. New projects were also postponed.

Decisions about carrying on with works were down to the contractors on each project, with many assuming the federal government restrictions made it impossible to continue. Now the government of Flanders has drawn up an agreement with the civil engineering sector on the safest way for works to continue.

Peeters visited Ghent’s ring road project yesterday, observing works being done between Melle and Merelbeke (pictured above). This section of the R4 is being resurfaced and fitted with new guard rails. It was one of the first projects to restart under the new arrangements.

“The R4 works are important, and if we can complete them with less disruption than usual, this is a win-win situation for everyone,” she said.

Safety measures include social distancing between workers on site, and for those making necessary deliveries. Soap and water are provided for anyone entering or leaving the site, and additional transport has been laid on to get workers to and from the site safely.

Peeters hopes this will be an example for other infrastructure projects. “The contractor is doing everything possible to ensure that employees can perform their work in the right conditions,” she said. “Their health remains the most important thing, of course.”

The government is hoping that rapid progress can be made on road projects where safety is an issue, or where considerable disruption would be caused under normal circumstances. It is also prioritising work that unlocks other projects. This is the case with the R4 between Melle and Merelbeke, which has to be completed before work on the Gentbrugge overpass can begin.

In the same spirit, Leuven city council has brought forward plans to modify and resurface Eenmeilaan, an important arterial road in Kessel-Lo. This work was due to begin in August, but doing it now means it can be carried out without disrupting traffic so much, or clashing with other planned projects in the Autumn. If all goes according to plan, the work will be finished by 8 May.

Photo courtesy cabinet Lydina Peeters

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)