Norway’s national automobile federation NAF, with 500,000 members, was sounding the alarm before Monday’s elections, worrying that too many parties were riding an “environmental populistic wave” that may crash down on plans to widen the heavily trafficked E18 highway west of Oslo.
The highway has been overburdened for years, with vehicles crawling at a snail’s pace on it during the rush hours. New tolls set up to discourage driving into the city (and to raise money for roadbuilding) haven’t helped, and local politicians finally seemed to agree on plans to widen the road in both directions.
Now NAF is worried that those plans are threatened by the rising popularity of the Greens party, its firm opposition to road improvements and other parties’ potential need to compromise with the Greens if they, as expected, end up with the swing vote in Oslo’s city government.
NAF is especially worried that the Labour Party is most vulnerable to striking a deal with the Greens that could sabotage the entire highway project, which has been on the drawing board for years. “We think Labour has been unclear and stumbling more than any other on this issue,” Inger Elisabeth Sagedal of NAF told newspaper Aftenposten this week. The Conservative Party supports expansion of the highway, as does the state transport ministry, but only the Christian Democrats specifically mentioned an expanded E18 as a priority in a recent Aftenposten survey of the parties in city government. Other parties, including Labour, ranked a new metro tunnel under Oslo as the top priority, along with new rail lines west to Fornebu and east to the Ahus hospital in Lorenskog.
NAF claims that private car traffic won’t increase as much as the Greens may think if the E18 is widened, because more commuters are either cycling to work or using public transportation.