Temporary renovation of Mechelen vests is the first step towards much bigger renewal (Mechelen)

By the end of this year, one-way traffic will apply to almost the entire inner ring road. Only on the section between the intersection between McDonald’s and the one with Liersesteenweg can you drive in two directions over the fortresses. The work currently being carried out costs around 3.8 million euros. In addition, the new traffic lights cost one million euros. Many people wonder how final these adjustments are.

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“The reconstruction is temporary, because there will be a permanent one anyway. What it looks like is the continuation of the process we are running. At present, the new vests are reasonably similar to the temporary redesign in terms of traffic organization. For the rest, nothing looks the same,” says Bart Janssens, project manager for the vests at the Swedish Road and Transport Agency (AWV).

Renewal from facade to facade

According to the engineer, the new vests will have a completely different look. “With much more green and much more logically structured. Now we are attached to existing sidewalks and curbs. Only in Guido Gezellelaan have we renewed a section, because the asphalt there was very bad. In the final conversion, everything will be removed, and we will renovate from facade to facade,’ explains Janssens.

For the temporary repairs, the contractors worked on almost 5 kilometers of vests in six months. “The temporary nature of the current work lies in the layout, not in the traffic situation. The traffic flows are final, apart from a few minor adjustments that can still be made in the final design,’ says Patrick Princen (Vld-Groen-m+), councilor for public works.

The lane on the side of the city center is intended for local traffic only. © Dirk Vertommen

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The budget for complete renewal of the subsoil and topsoil is estimated at 50 to 70 million euros. “We are renewing the sewage system, but we are also looking at whether we can install a heating network. We will use that to prepare our city for the future and the challenges surrounding climate change,’ says Councilor Princen, who is also responsible for Energy. “We also want to basically soften the vests,” he says.

Increase the quality of life

The final renovation was due to begin in late 2023. That work will take at least six years. “We are preparing the concepts. The first zone on the program is between Raghenoplein and Brusselpoort and the intersection of the Antwerp Gate”, explains Patrick Princen. That part should be ready by the end of 2024.

“With this project, we choose to make the vests more sustainable and increase the quality of life and road safety. We are giving them a new future, and it is a conscious choice”, says Mayor Alexander Vandersmissen (Vld-Groen-m+). He calls the plans a logical continuation of the completion of R6 and the opening of the tangent.

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There is already noticeably more room for cyclists on the temporarily redesigned vests. © Dirk Vertommen

The Flemish minister Bart Somers (Open Vld) recently intervened extensively in the city council about the project. As titular mayor, he is a strong supporter of the project. “The west is the most visible part of our city. We have invested a great deal in revising the city center and the districts. When you rode our vests, you had the feeling that you were on an inner city highway. It is a large asphalt surface with little appearance. In fact, the vests should be our 21st-century version of Vienna’s Ringstrasse,” he says.

In his view, the west has the potential to create a large park. “There is room for hundreds of trees. At the same time, we can respond very actively to the challenges of the 21st century. If we install a heating network anywhere, it is on the vests. If we want to create a real connection between the historic city center and the surrounding districts, it is to the west. We have to set the bar as high as possible”, explains Somers.

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