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Viewpoint: Jen Kalafut

Controversy is rising over the planned construction of a fifth bridge in Bratislava, known as Košická most (Košická Bridge). While Metro a.s. - the company in charge of its construction - argues that the bridge is a necessity to alleviate traffic flow problems in the city, local residents and activists question the planning and demand greater consideration.
Both city officials and the public agree that Bratislava has traffic problems. A new bridge may well lessen the demand on other bridges during heavy transport. But there is no clear idea of what impact a new bridge would have on solving the traffic problems in the city as no formal, independent impact assessment has been developed, and no other options considered.

Controversy is rising over the planned construction of a fifth bridge in Bratislava, known as Košická most (Košická Bridge). While Metro a.s. - the company in charge of its construction - argues that the bridge is a necessity to alleviate traffic flow problems in the city, local residents and activists question the planning and demand greater consideration.

Both city officials and the public agree that Bratislava has traffic problems. A new bridge may well lessen the demand on other bridges during heavy transport. But there is no clear idea of what impact a new bridge would have on solving the traffic problems in the city as no formal, independent impact assessment has been developed, and no other options considered.

'Bridge no. 5', a citizens' campaign organised by members of the Bratislava community, demands that the financiers and builders of the bridge reassess the project. An environmental impact assessment would include in-depth social and environmental analysis, public hearings and the development of alternatives.

Campaigners worry that the Košická Bridge project, first conceived some 30 years ago, does not properly consider the current demographic and traffic situation of the city. They argue that the bridge project supports increased car use and ignores alternative investments in public transportation which, in the long-run, are more economically and environmentally viable.

The community is primarily concerned with the health and safety of around 1,300 children attending school on the corner of Košická and Mlynské nivy (an intersection that would be heavily effect by increased traffic). Not only are increased emissions and traffic dangerous for children, but the noise elevation may be disruptive to their classes.

Furthermore, as stated in a letter signed by 25 non-governmental organisations in Slovakia (16 from Bratislava), "Public consultations came too late, after project plans were already finalised."

Because of this, the public has planned two further meetings and will invite local authorities, members of government and representatives from Metro a.s. and the EIB to engage in a discussion with the community on how to resolve the concerns/problems surrounding the Košická Bridge.

"We want to facilitate a dialogue between those building the bridge and the public," said Luboš Hajdin, a member of the Bridge no. 5 citizen's group. "Not only is it important for authorities supporting the bridge to understand that there are more than a few activists concerned about these issues, but it is the first step in developing alternative transport projects in Bratislava."

Bridge no. 5 has brought issues concerning the Košická Bridge to international attention: Letters from civic organisations in Slovakia have been sent to EBRD Executive Directors in Europe and the US and to the top officials of the EIB. Earth Alarm, a Netherlands-based organisation, has encouraged its members to actively express concerns surrounding the Bratislava bridge to the EIB. Slovak representatives from Bridge no. 5 have travelled to Stockholm and London to meet with the banks about bridge issues.

Public events concerning the construction of Košicka bridge

June 11, 2001, 19:00: A meeting in Bratislava's Astorka theatre aims to bring affected people and decision makers together to discuss the impacts of big investment projects. The Košická Bridge will be one of the main topics on the agenda.

June 22, 2001, 19:00: A public meeting on the Košická bridge at the school on the corner of Košická and Mlynské nivy. Public officials, reps from Metro, a.s., representatives from the EIB, experts on transport, and members of the Bridge no. 5 group are invited for a panel discussion with local residents, school children and parents.

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