60 Highway bridges of the a45 need to be renewed

The A45 becomes a symbol of Germany’s ailing infrastructure. Not only the already closed Rahmedetal bridge, but also all the others must be demolished and replaced.

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IMAGO / Rene Traut

New shock news for drivers and residents of the A 45: Not only the Rahmedetal bridge is beyond repair, but another 60 bridges on the A 45 freeway – also known as the Sauerland line – are so dilapidated that they have to be demolished and rebuilt. Elfriede Sauerwein-Braksiek, head of the Westphalia branch of the new Autobahn GmbH, admitted as much in an interview with the WDR radio station.

Just a short time ago, she had said: "We are not aware of any other bridges where we need to take acute action." Not yet, we had taken the liberty of adding at the time. Because this highway with its many bridges in the mountainous Sauerland and Siegerland regions was built as a second connection next to the Cologne-Frankfurt highway (A3) in the 1960s and 1970s. All viaducts also date from this time. Bridges were partly built as filigree steel composite structures, often also like the framed metal bridge in curved form with equally curved supporting plates. Nevertheless, the entire freeway construction took only about ten years at the time.

NRW Minister President Hendrik Wust, previously in charge as NRW Transport Minister: "We all – state and federal government together – want this restructuring to work quickly and smoothly. Many people have already worked very hard for this in recent months, and there will continue to be a lot of work to do." And: "The success story of the construction boom in North Rhine-Westphalia must continue to be written in the future."

Apart from extending the buzzword "ramp-up" to bridge construction as well, not much happened. Wust, as NRW Minister President, can point out that the federal government now has to deal with the problems and, as a Corona hardliner, distract attention from his infrastructure disaster with demands for compulsory vaccination.

The planning, construction and maintenance of highways used to be the responsibility of the states; since 1. January 2021, this task has been transferred to the federally owned Autobahn GmbH. The NRW Ministry of Transport proudly announced how well this transition had gone. It took about 2.250 employees of the Landesbetrieb Straben.NRW to change to Autobahn GmbH. "New offices are being rented, contracts are being drawn up, work equipment has to be recorded and handed over to the federal government – from snow removal vehicles to chain saws. At the same time, construction and rehabilitation projects must continue to run smoothly."

But the Federal Ministry of Transport earlier still urged a start of construction of a new bridge in 2017. But the old road.NRW had moved the Rahmede bridge down the priority list. A mistake, says Sauerwein-Braksiek according to come-on.en today. And: since 2017, nothing has really happened in terms of planning.

At the beginning of January, structural engineers sounded the alarm that the Rahmedetal bridge near Ludenscheid was so badly damaged that there was an acute risk of collapse. The dents in the plates of the main girders would have increased so much that the bridge could not be restored even to the extent that at least passenger cars can drive over it. In addition, he said, there had been significant corrosion damage and cracks in the steel girders.

Because the Sauerland line is the most important connection between the Rhine-Ruhr area and the Rhine-Main area. Many medium-sized companies, many of which are still world leaders in tool and machine construction, depend on being able to transport their products effectively.

And the detour through Ludenscheid and Hagen is an imposition on residents, accidents on the bypass roads are increasing.

After all, there are impressive television images of bridge blasting for entertainment purposes. On Sunday, 6. February the blasting of the Rinsbrucke should be broadcast live.

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