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Controversial Mosel Bridge Appears On Hold

Work ceases on bridge and highway that could jeopardize vineyards; government won't explain why

Victoria Daskal
Posted: May 3, 2012

The German government's plan to build a bridge over some of the Mosel river valley's most-prized vineyards has come to a halt. The regional government will not discuss the reason for the stoppage, but local sources say poor planning and engineering miscalculations are behind the construction freeze on the Hochmoselübergang, or High Mosel Crossway.

Despite the internationally acclaimed Rieslings produced from the steep slopes of the vineyards in the Mittelmosel, the Rhineland-Palatinate government has planned for some time to build a major highway and bridge on the spot. The project's chief purpose would be to provide an easier route for heavy vehicles between Frankfurt's airport and the busy markets of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 4-lane, 525-foot-high, mile-long bridge would connect Ürzig and Rachtig. Originally conceived during the Cold War, the bridge was approved as a stimulus project during the global recession.

Many of the region’s key winemakers, including Ernst Loosen of Bernkastel's Weingut Dr. Loosen and Manfred Prüm of Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm, oppose the construction plans, fearing that unpredictable building effects could ruin the vineyards either through increased pollution, disturbing the microclimate of the vineyards and the forest above, heightened soil erosion or interfering with the watershed.

Other prominent wine figures have strongly voiced their concerns and publicly protested the plan, including authors, journalists and an advocacy group called Pro-Mosel. Despite the hard lobbying, building commenced a year ago. But locals now report that workers have stopped building and left the site. The cause is reportedly not the opposition, but poor engineering plans.

“According to witnesses, the building company Porr have suspended their activities on the construction of the Mosel bridge until further notice," Pro-Mosel announced in a statement. "Construction cranes have been dismantled, demonstrably angry workers have been sent away. It has been reported that static calculations are missing, and that only the measurements for the first bridge pier have been reliably calculated. Officially, the contractors refuse to confirm this information.”

Neither the government or the construction companies involved on the bridge would comment, but a government official told a local newspaper that key structural analysis documents are missing.

No independent surveys have been carried out, but critics of the construction project have long argued that the Mosel region is prone to landslides. The Ürzig side of the bridge, where the plans call for pillars 525 feet tall, is at especially high risk.

"If the planning of the bridge must be completely revised, a major part of the planning work carried out to date is useless," said Dr. Johannes Feuerbach, a geologist with the German firm Geo-International.

There is no word yet if the project will continue after further planning. "The federal government has the task of deciding whether it wants to finance this reckless adventure further," said Georg Laska of Pro-Mosel. "Is it justifiable to once again empty many hundred million euros from the pockets of national German taxpayers to fulfil the insane fantasy of some local politicians?”

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