Rhineland bridge threatens Mosel valley vineyards

By Richard High30 June 2010

The 1,7 km-long, 160 m-high, 29 m-wide bridge across the Mosel is scheduled for completion in 2016.

The 1,7 km-long, 160 m-high, 29 m-wide bridge across the Mosel is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Plans for a four-lane highway and bridge through Germany's Mosel wine-growing region have provoked protests from the world's wine-lovers and writers, who say it threatens the future of some of the most important Riesling vineyards in the world.

The 1,7 km-long, 160 m-high, 29 m-wide bridge across the Mosel is scheduled for completion in 2016 at a cost of about € 330 million (US$ 405 million. The bridge, part of the new four-lane, 35.5 m-wide, 250 km-long B50 Autobahn, will take traffic through a forest that provides water to steep, slate-soil slopes.

The German government says the bridge and Autobahn are vital to improve transport links with Frankfurt-Hahn airport, a budget airline destination owned by Rheinland-Pfalz. The state government hopes the Autobahn will make the airport a cargo hub for Belgium and the Netherlands.

Critics say the Autobahn and bridge, known as the Hochmoseluebergang, will affect the hydrology - the water flow and drainage - of the slopes below, where Riesling grapes have grown for 2000 years, producing Mosel wines.

But with several of the access roads for the bridge already completed, and the regional government of Rhineland Palatinate state, which is home to 5000 vineyards, calling for tenders, time looks to be running out for the project's opponents.

Hendrik Hering, minister for winemaking in Rheinland-Palatinate and also minister of transport, said "The bridge is indispensable because it will cut travel time by half an hour between Germany and the Benelux countries and ease the flow of traffic.

"More than 20000 vehicles cross the Mosel valley, a quarter of them lorries. We need an efficient east-west connection. The valley would be disrupted more if we allowed thousands of vehicles in and out every day."

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