Bonn On Monday, July 23, renovation of the B9 tunnel in Bad Godesberg begins. Around 40,000 cars use the tunnel daily. What will the construction work mean for traffic flow?
A fire is the worst thing that can happen in a heavily used tunnel, for the fire department, paramedics and of course for motorists. Where are the emergency exits? Is the ventilation system adequate? Because these are the challenges for all those affected. Reconstruction of a major accident in the Gotthard Tunnel on October 24 of 2001 showed that the heat in the tunnel reached 300 degrees Celsius after only 100 seconds and 920 degrees after only ten minutes. Contributing to the problem was an aged ventilation system which was 30 years old.
Not only this accident but many others with numerous casualties, prompted automobile associations in countries throughout Europe to test their tunnels and the European Union (EU) to call for a plan with stricter safety requirements. These were to be implemented by 2014 in all tunnels longer than 500 meters. Countries with numerous tunnels received an extension until 2019, but Germany was not included in this group. This means the upgrading of the Godesberg tunnel is late according to the EU regulations. But some measures were carried out in 2012, including improving the signage, lighting and marking of emergency exits. These were mostly carried out without major traffic disruptions. Further steps were postponed due to the UN Climate Conference at the end of 2017.
One side of tunnel to be closed completely beginning in August
So now comes the inevitable phase 2 to bring more safety in the tunnel. On July 23, the first restrictions will be implemented and on August 11, the complete side of the tunnel that leads north to Bonn will be closed. There will be two-way traffic on the other side of the tunnel, with an approximately 80-centimeter tall barrier in the middle of the two lanes, according to the city.
The Godesberg tunnel was built to provide relief to the congested streets of Bad Godesberg, and opened to traffic on August 29, 1999. Now the inevitable construction phase is beginning, and with it will come traffic chaos. No one in the city administration is trying to play down this fact. Where there were once four lanes (two on each side of the tunnel) for 40,000 cars per day, there will be only two lanes for 18 months. “Significant disruptions” are expected. City engineering and road authorities have finished up all other construction projects on alternative routes.
The city is trying its best to manage the situation and the entrance gates have been rebuilt to help everyone get in the right lane going into the tunnel. The speed limit will be set at 30.
Suggested alternative routes
The city recommends the following detours: the MUK route (Mittel-, Ubier-, Konstantinstraße) and the parallel roads (Oscar-Romero, Nahum-Goldmann, August-Bebel, Martin-Luther-Allee and Godesberger Straße). Civil engineering director Peter Esch fears that even the routes through Friesdorf or the so-called MUK route will be permanently clogged at peak times. At least at the heavily frequented areas, traffic lights should be adjusted so that no additional, unnecessary traffic jams occur. As is common with new construction sites, it will probably be really bad at the beginning on the A565 between Lengsdorf and Endenich. It will take some time for drivers to become familiar with the new situation - learning by doing - and adapting to it. Esch and his team have chosen to start the closure of the first half of the tunnel during summer holidays so that traffic would not be as heavy. “Maybe there are no problems at all,” he says, but he really doesn’t believe it.
The construction phases
Construction Phase 1, North Portal: If you drive from Elsässer Straße to the B9, you can no longer turn right into the tunnel. On Wurzerstraße on the opposite side, a left turn into the tunnel is no longer possible. The short tube to Bonner Straße (city) is closed in this direction, but still open to drivers in the direction of Bonn. The access and exit via the ramp Godesberger Straße (Obi-Markt) will be blocked. In this tunnel section, the complete jet fans will be removed, equipped with additional powerful fans and integrated into the fire ventilation of the main tunnel tubes.
Construction phase 1, South Portal: The Koblenzer Straße ramp in front of McDonald's will be open only to cars coming out of the tunnel in the direction of Mehlem. In the opposite direction it will be closed. Instead, the entrance on Friedrichallee (a few meters further) will be open, where all traffic is funneled to the left side of the tunnel. Pedestrians can then no longer directly cross Friedrichallee and will have to take a detour. A new traffic routing will come in mid-May of 2019.
Construction Phase 2, North Portal: A right turn from Elsässer Straße and left turn from Wurzerstraße remain prohibited. If you want to travel from Bonn into the tunnel, you have to take the detour via Hochkreuzallee and Godesberger Straße and then use the local ramp behind Obi. The short tube will be fully accessible again.
Building Phase 2, South Portal: The cars from Bonn come out of the tunnel onto Friedrichallee. Going the other direction, cars use the ramp on Koblenzer Straße to go underground.
The traffic management is complex, and everyone has to get used to it at first. But the city says that they have planned to guarantee safety for all road users: If an accident occurs in the tunnel during construction, there are emergency bays, and rescue workers can quickly access the tunnel. However, the prescribed speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour is expected to prevent major crashes.
(Orig. text: Richard Bongartz / Translation: ck)