Bridges urged over the Oslo Fjord

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Norway’s state highway department is recommending that politicians opt for a new bridge over the Oslo Fjord instead of building a new tunnel under it, to ease east-west traffic in southern Norway. Some plans call for two bridges, but face major budget challenges.

Plans are well underway for new ways of crossing the Oslo Fjord. This bridge would cross the fjord just north of the existing tunnel between Drøbak and Hurum, with a mid-way base on the island of Håøya. ILLUSTRATION: Rambøll

Plans are well underway for new means of crossing the fjord south of Oslo. This bridge would cross the Oslo Fjord just north of the existing tunnel between Drøbak and Hurum, with a base on the island of Håøya. ILLUSTRATION: Rambøll

Traffic planners have been trying to find new ways of speeding east-west traffic and avoiding more congestion in the Oslo area. A tunnel built under the fjord around a decade ago hasn’t been the success it was supposed to be, not least because it’s often closed for various reasons and its necessary steep descent has caused vehicles to catch fire because of constant braking.

There’s growing demand to streamline traffic over the Oslo Fjord, with the long-running ferry between Moss and Horten also now deemed inadequate in the long term. A state commission charged with evaluating solutions claims it hasn’t concluded whether a bridge or tunnel should be built. On Wednesday, however, project leader Anders Jordbakke of the state highway department (Statens Vegvesen) recommended building a bridge that would extend from just north of Drøbak east to the northern tip of the large island of Håøya and then over to Åros on the Hurum peninsula.

“We recommend a bridge because it would have greater use over the long term,” Jordbakke told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The challenge is that it would cost much more (than expanding the current tunnel between Drøbak and Hurum).”

A second bridge is also under consideration between Moss and Horten. ILLUSTRATION:  SWECO

A second bridge is also under consideration between Moss and Horten. ILLUSTRATION: SWECO

Highway officials also propose building a second, much longer bridge, over the fjord between Moss and Horten, but that project needs much more work.

“When we analyze the merits of a bridge or a tunnel between Moss and Horten, a bridge offers much more benefit to society per krone invested,” Jordbakke said. “Therefore it seems to be a robust and good investment for the community.”

A bridge also offers better possibilities for public transport or cycling, since vehicles and train lines could run on upper and and lower decks.

The proposed projects will now go out to hearing, while other consultants hired by the transport ministry will also provide their recommendations. Any decision will ultimately be made by the government. No specific costs have been assigned to the projects, but Jordbakke estimated they would run into “the tens of billions of kroner.”

Per Morten Lund, who’s leading the group examining alternatives, said both a new tunnel or a bridge would dramatically reduce travel time between east and west and link the counties of Østfold in the east and Vestfold in the west closer together.

“We have to learn more about costs, technical solutions, usage and risks before we can choose between a bridge or a tunnel between Moss and Horten,” Lund said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund