February 4, 2023

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More money for road maintenance is an uncomfortable note  column

More money for road maintenance is an uncomfortable note column

During my time as a reporter in the US, it was a regular conversation with visitors from the Netherlands: the poor state of the US road network.

For example, I once reported in detail how thirteen people died when an eight-lane road bridge collapsed over the Mississippi near Minneapolis.

With a certain self-satisfaction, ‘we’ the Dutch decided that it was much better organized in our little country than those stupid Americans. Check out our beautiful road network with that smooth asphalt.

Fifteen years later, little of that pride remains. Here too the successive Cabinets have shown gross negligence in the maintenance of roads and bridges. Maintenance does not earn you votes. That is, the list of road traffic jams and obstacles is growing almost monthly. Experts openly warn that bridges and viaducts are at risk of collapse. Fortunately, there have been no deaths so far, but comparisons to the US are slowly coming out. Unthinkable once. Now the reality.

The best-known drama is of course taking place on the A7 between Sneek and Joure, where the road will be blocked in the coming months due to increased asphalt.

There is also much suffering closer to home. For example, the bridge over the A8 at Cook on de John won’t open until at least 2024, meaning heavy shipping will have to be diverted for hours. Disaster, if only there were sky-high additional fuel costs.

The bridge over the North Holland Canal on the A7 near Parmerend over the North Holland Canal is temporarily closed to freight traffic because the bridge can no longer handle the hundreds of heavy trucks every day. Collapse is imminent.

There is still an explanation for that delayed maintenance in America. Americans hate paying taxes, which is why they don’t appreciate car ownership.

In the Netherlands it’s a bit different. Every year, the government extorts 18 billion euros in road tax from Dutch motorists. You say more than enough to keep our road network in top condition. The reality is different: less than a third of that amount is used to maintain the road network.

The current cabinet’s gesture to free up an extra €1 billion for overdue maintenance is in stark contrast. Actually, it’s just an embarrassing hint.

Follow Jan-Kees Emmer on Twitter: @jkmr

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