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PLANS UNDERWAY TO BUILD A FIFTH BRIDGE OVER THE DANUBE THAT MAY ALLEVIATE BRATISLAVA'S TRAFFIC WOES

"This bridge is an absolute necessity"

Ludmila Helienková's Petržalka apartment is only a few kilometres from her job in Bratislava's city centre. But on busy mornings, her commute lasts up to half an hour.
"The bridges are always clogged," she said. "The worst is between 7:00 and 7:30. It's agony."
Helienková isn't alone in her traffic ordeal. Each day up to 70,000 Petržalka residents cross Bratislava's four bridges to work in Bratislava's city centre, creating a gridlock that throws even public transportation off schedule. Traffic jams are becoming more severe with Bratislava residents purchasing roughly 25,000 new cars annually.


An electronic projection of the planned Košicka bridge, which will stand 232 metres long and 38 metres high.
photo. Courtesy Metro Bratislava a.s.

Ludmila Helienková's Petržalka apartment is only a few kilometres from her job in Bratislava's city centre. But on busy mornings, her commute lasts up to half an hour.

"The bridges are always clogged," she said. "The worst is between 7:00 and 7:30. It's agony."

Helienková isn't alone in her traffic ordeal. Each day up to 70,000 Petržalka residents cross Bratislava's four bridges to work in Bratislava's city centre, creating a gridlock that throws even public transportation off schedule. Traffic jams are becoming more severe with Bratislava residents purchasing roughly 25,000 new cars annually.

But plans are underway to alleviate the capital's traffic woes. Construction on a 232 metre-long, 38-metre-high, four-lane fifth bridge is slated to begin this December south of Starý most (Old Bridge) around the corner from Bratislava's main bus station.

The bridge will connect Košická street in Mlynské nivy and Dolnozemská street in Petržalka and field up to 40,000 automobiles daily from Petržalka to the city centre.

"This bridge is an absolute necessity," said project head Vladimír Kovalčík. "One hundred and fifty-thousand people live in Petržalka, where there are almost no jobs. The four bridges cannot adequately handle the traffic [these people produce] across the Danube."

Košická most (Košická Bridge) should be finished by 2003, around the time a new highway diverting transit traffic from Bratislava's centre is scheduled to open. City planners are hoping commuters will use Košická Bridge, Old Bridge, and the UFO-shaped Nový most (New Bridge), while transit drivers will use the highway served by Prístavný most (Harbor Bridge) and La franconi most (Lafranconi Bridge), the city's southernmost and northernmost bridges spanning the Danube.


Petržalka residents hope the new bridge will put an end to the traffic jams they endure on their daily commute.
photo. Courtesy Metro Bratislava a.s.

Traffic issues have nagged Bratislava as the city's population has grown over the last 30 years from 300,000 to 450,000, and Petržalka's from 18,000 to 150,000. But city planners say their hands have been tied by insufficient funding. Bratislava receives only 180 million crowns ($3.6 million) from the state budget yearly for maintenance and construction of traffic links, according to the Bratislava City Hall - an amount, it said, that falls 120 million crowns ($2.5

million) short of annual maintenance alone.

For larger projects, such as the Košická Bridge, the city is dependent on special provisions in the state budget, which in turn are dependent on the political will of parliament.

Košická Bridge will cost 3.6 billion crowns ($73 million dollars), with the state agreeing in 2000 to foot 50% of the bill and be guarantor on a European Investment Bank loan covering the second half. Plans to build a 30 billion crown ($612 million) subway link from Petržalka to Bratislava's main train station - discussed for decades - have yet to gain sufficient financial support, although over 400 million crowns ($8 million) has already been sunk into research.

Older Bridges

The Košická Bridge will be a crucial traffic link in coming years when the Old Bridge - "rusted and ready to fall" according to Kovalčík - will be replaced or overhauled and raised. Built in 1945 by the Soviet Red Army to replace the city's lone bridge, which had been bombarded, Old Bridge is more than a metre too low for international Danube regulations.

The first Czechoslovak-made bridge, known as New Bridge, was finished in 1972. Although it was voted Slovak Construction of the Century in a recent Slovak architectural competition its image has long been marred by the destruction of two-thirds of the Bratislava's Old Town its construction required.

Prístavný and Lafranconi were erected in 1984 and 1991. In the last half of the 90s, traffic on New and Old bridges increased one-third and one-quarter respectively, and on Prístavný and Lafranconi bridges by 2.5 and six times, respectively.

The only hitch in the Košická Bridge project so far has been opposition from environmental groups and citizens who oppose the removal of 900 trees it necessitates and the noise and air pollution its traffic will bring. Environmental leaders said a grass-roots campaign to inform citizens and build support to cancel the project would soon begin.

But city planners said that they didn't expect protests to hold back the project and countered that the realities of Bratislava traffic necessitate construction of the Košická Bridge.

"It's a sort of discrimination to say that since few people will have to deal with more traffic 150,000 Petržalka residents should continue to suffer," said Kovalčík.

He added that for every tree lost two would be replanted. "I will build this bridge," he vowed. or tens of thousand of commuters like Helienková, his words can't come true soon enough.

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