State highway and city authorities had been warning for months of massive traffic congestion in Oslo this week, as work began on improvements to the first of 10 tunnels in and around downtown. The feared delays failed to materialize, however, after thousands of commuters either left their cars at home, or stayed home themselves.
“There clearly are many people taking public transport or using their home offices,” traffic researcher Aud Tennøy of the state Transport-øknomisk institutt (TØI) told newspaper Aftenposten after the morning rush hour flowed better than it normally does on Tuesday.
The lack of traffic chaos prompted some researchers and environmentalists to suggest it’s not necessary to spend billions expanding highways into Oslo such as the heavily trafficked E18 west of the city to the suburbs of Bærum and Asker. Traffic often stands still on the E18 during the commuter rush hours, but the lack of chaos when two lanes of the usually busy Ring 3 road in connection with repairs to the Smestad Tunnel “is an argument against expansion of the E18,” said another TØI researcher, Jørgen Aarhaug.
He claimed many people have the option of swapping their cars with other modes of travel (some executives were spotted jogging to work instead of driving on Tuesday) “but it’s usually only when they have to, that they do.”
Ten tunnels will be closed at various times during the next four years to carry out required rehabilitation. The work means that road capacity on key arteries will be dramatically reduced.