After decades of political quarreling, construction is finally cleared to start on expansion of the heavily trafficked E18 highway west of Oslo. A decision by the local Viken County council to guarantee financial support set off new political battles, however, also within the Labour Party.
Viken leader Tonje Brenna ended up sacrificing her Labour-led council coalition’s majority when the Socialist Left party (SV) and the Greens stormed off in protest. They’ve been opposing expansion of the E18 in an effort to reduce use of private cars in the Oslo area and thereby cut emissions. Oslo’s Labour-led city government also opposes improvements to the E18, pitting Brenna against her own party colleague and Oslo government leader Raymond Johansen.
Brenna and her county council colleagues from the Center Party, however, decided it was more important to clear the way for a scaled-down version of the new E18 and, at the same time, secure state financial support for the new metro rail system that will connect Oslo with the Fornebu area west of downtown. State Transport Minister Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats, in an effort to force through the E18 project, had threatened to block funding for Fornebubanen if local government officials kept arguing and delaying plans for the E18, which is the site of major traffic jams morning and evening despite high tolls meant to discourage commuting by car.
Now the Labour and Center parties will need to solicit support on an issue-by-issue basis, after their coalition fell apart, while Oslo city officials are now threatening to drop cooperation on other regional public transport projects. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Thursday how they’re “offended and furious” after the Viken council saved the E18 project. Commuters and many others are delighted, not least those now having to commute to and from the ever-growing Fornebu area via overloaded buses.