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  • Seymour Gris: An Autobahn through Friedrichshain?


Seymour Gris: An Autobahn through Friedrichshain?

A new inner city highway no one really wants could destroy the chances of a progressive city government after the September 18 election.

Image for Seymour Gris: An Autobahn through Friedrichshain?
Photo by Herman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

That’s not a joke headline. It’s a real plan. Maybe you’ve heard about that highly controversial six-lane A100 Autobahn that is currently being built between Treptow and Neukölln all the way to Treptower Park?

The most expensive highway in German history? The one that’s costing taxpayers €500 million for a total of 3.4 kilometres?

Yes, that one.

The plan is to extend the A100 across the Spree (a few hundred metres from the Badeschiff, over the ruins of the soon-to-be-demolished Wilde Renate club) to Ostbahnhof through Friedrichshain all the way to Frankfurter Allee. Federal planners (crazies that they are) eventually want to extend it beyond that up to Storkower Straße at the fringe of Prenzlauer Berg. How many hundreds of millions of euros that will cost hasn’t yet been revealed.

Berlin elections are being held on September 18 and the A100 could once again play a crucial role in the coalition building process. Incumbent mayor Michael Müller’s SPD (and the CDU) officially favours the A100 extension to Frankfurter Tor as part of a transport plan to “relieve innercity streets”. If polls are to be believed, Müller will have to form a coalition with either the Greens or Die Linke or both to form a government. Both of those parties oppose extending the A100. In 2011, the Greens broke off coalition talks with mayor Klaus Wowereit (SPD) after merely an hour of discussions because of this very issue, resulting in five years of an ineffective coalition with the CDU’s Klaus “law and order” Henkel. Müller is going to have to budge on the A100 and get a little more eco if he wants his stated Wunschkoalition with the Greens to become reality this time around. The alternative is five more years of CDU-SPD stagnation in a city where the majority of the population is politically left-of-centre.

Image for Seymour Gris: An Autobahn through Friedrichshain?
Photo courtesy of Alexrk2 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Anyway, a six-lane highway running through one of Berlin’s most densely populated districts seems like a terrible idea, basically a throwback to the 1960s, when Autobahnen crashing through the centres of cities and towns were all the rage. We know now that they do nothing to improve quality of life, they just encourage people to get in their cars and drive. Often, additional roads actually create more congestion (see Braess’ paradox)!

Berliners have defeated innercity motorways before. A plan devised in 1965 saw an Autobahn running down Kreuzberg 36’s famous Oranienstraße and Oranienplatz was slated to become a massive freeway junction! Thanks to citizen action, this insane plan was not to be: when residents left the area to make way for mass demolition in the 1970s, squatters and protesters moved in and made such a stink that the plans for the A102 through Kreuzberg were shelved forever – at the same time giving birth to the Kreuzberg 36 counterculture we so cherish today.

If you’re interested in taking part in the campaign to stop the A100, go here. Maybe you can be part of the birth of a new Treptow counterculture. Or maybe you can simply keep our city less reliant on things that en masse aren’t that good for us: cars!