As yearslong autobahn traffic jam nears end, more road work starts near Ramstein
By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2018
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – The good news for tens of thousands of U.S. personnel and family members in the vicinity of Ramstein Air Base is that seven years of snarled highway traffic is likely nearing an end next month.
The downside, especially for rush-hour commuters: a new project on a bridge and a traffic circle near the base will take about three years to complete.
The construction on the autobahn – known around the world for portions that lack any speed limit – has slowed traffic down in places to a limit of 60 kilometers per hour, or about 37 mph, on a 12-mile stretch of the A6 between Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl.
The projects underscore the difficulties of keeping Germany’s extensive roadway system, large portions of which were built before or during WWII, in safe condition as traffic crosses the center of Europe.
Transportation officials said that all of the autobahns are old in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, which includes Ramstein Air Base and several Army installations. Meanwhile, traffic volume is increasing and trucks carry heavier loads than in the past, said Verena Bluemling, spokeswoman at the state’s Federal Mobility Office in Koblenz.
“You can see a perpetual repaving,” Bluemling said.
There are about 40 autobahn construction sites in Rheinland-Pfalz due to more state and federal money being made available, Bluemling said.
Bridges, in particular, weren’t built to withstand the pounding they’re taking now, said Volker Priebe, the Federal Mobility Office manager in charge of the project beginning in October in Einsiedlerhof, near Ramstein Air Base’s east gate.
The bridge at Einsiedlerhof is in “critical condition” and the work “could not wait any longer,” Priebe said.
An old bridge will be removed, two new bridges will be built and the circle located at road L369 near the air base will be replaced with a two lane “turbo circle.” Each side of the road will have two lanes upon completion, according to plans.
About 20,000 vehicles, many of them driven by Americans, use L369 daily.
“We are thinking a lot about how we can maintain the traffic flow in the time of the construction,” Priebe said.
The goal is to keep the adjoining access road to the autobahn open, especially since all the traffic for the construction site at the new U.S. military hospital outside the air base goes through Einsiedlerhof, Priebe said.
The construction on the 100-foot-high Lautertal bridge, which forms part of the A6, has been far more complicated.
The work on the bridge could have been done faster by shutting it down and using detours, Priebe said. But that would have caused gridlock in Kaiserslautern, a city of more than 100,000 people.
The construction’s results should please drivers. The stretch will have three lanes on each side, rather than the previous two, and the bridges will be safer, officials said.
Ramstein base officials were briefed on the construction at a meeting in June. They are confident that German authorities will minimize congestion and disruptions as the Einsiedlerhof construction moves forward, base spokesman Kilian Bluemlein said Tuesday.
However, Bluemlein added in an email that “inconveniences cannot be avoided with construction of a road which sees dense traffic all year through.”
“For this purpose we will advise all Ramstein Air Base members and commuters to consider construction, apply caution and appropriate road safety and allow for some extra time to avoid delays,” Bluemlein said.