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Schuman's traffic problems made worse by tunnel closure, claims MP

Picture shows traffic jam in the Cinquantenaire /Jubelpark tunnel in downtown Brussels (BELGA PHOTO JONAS HAMERS)
06:45 02/11/2021

The tunnel under the Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée, at the end of the Avenue d'Auderghem in Brussels, has been closed for more than a year. Many assumed it was because of roadworks or repairs. However, in response to a written enquiry about the closure from Brussels MP Geoffroy Coomans de Brachene, mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt has revealed the real reason.

The closure of the tunnel "is an accompanying measure that was taken after the construction of the cycle path on Rue de la Loi", Van den Brandt told reporters. "The tunnel is not closed due to construction work."

Since May 2020, one of the four traffic lanes on Rue de la Loi has had to clear the way for a separate cycle path. This is a pilot project that runs until May 2022. At the end of September, during the inauguration of the bike path on Rue de la Loi, between Arts-Loi and Rue Royale, Elke Van den Brandt reiterated her intention to make the temporary path from Arts-Loi to Schuman a permanent one. An application for a permit must be submitted to this effect.

However, the removal of the traffic lane on Rue de la Loi has had a knock-on effect on the number of lanes in the Loi tunnel, one of the main routes into the centre of Brussels. Since the construction of the cycle path, motorists coming out of the Loi tunnel can only use two instead of three lanes.

"Before the construction of the two-way cycle path on Rue de la Loi, the Loi tunnel consisted of three lanes," Elke Van den Brandt said. "The left lane, coming from the Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée, the middle lane and the right lane, coming from Montgomery."

In order to prevent traffic from having to go through a bottleneck, the Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée tunnel, which merges with the Cinquantenaire tunnel into the Loi tunnel, was closed.

"The removed left lane in Rue de la Loi was an extension of the tunnel under Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée. For that reason, the access to that tunnel on the Avenue d'Auderghem was closed to traffic," said Van den Brandt.

Geoffroy Coomans de Brachene complains that the situation is causing more traffic problems than it intends to solve. "Since the closure of the tunnel, traffic has to go via Schuman, which causes more and more traffic jams there," he said, adding that the closure of the tunnel prevents traffic from the Avenue d'Auderghem heading towards the Rue de la Loi to bypass the Schuman roundabout. Coomans de Brachene claims that Brussels Mobility has yet to report any traffic jams on the route despite clear evidence of increased congestion.

Written by Nick Amies