It is so bad that Mayor Leen Wouters (N-VA) feels called to address residents in an open letter, ask for understanding and, more than ever, advise cycling or public transport as an alternative means of transport. Even though most road works, which are now suddenly being carried out in close succession and even simultaneously, are not done on behalf of the municipality. De Vlaamse Waterweg, among others, carries out preparatory works with a view to the construction of the new bridges over the Albert Canal.
“But we are confronted with residents who in this case are rightly upset about the difficult accessibility of their home, shops and workplace,” Public Works Councilor Tom Tachelet (Village Party Dare!) also understands the angry reactions of many Wijnegem residents. “Especially last week when FiberKlaar suddenly organized an unannounced construction site on the Krijgsbaan. Fortunately, that nuisance is over.”
Traffic lights Kasteellei
Worst affected is the charming Zevenbunder district between the Albert Canal and the Kasteellei. The Lindenlei, the entrance gate between Turnhoutsebaan and Stokerijstraat, will be completely closed this week. You can escape via the Stokerijstraat via the roundabout at Café Eenhoorn and the Oelegemsteenweg towards Wommelgem. But residents who want to go to the center are stuck at the Wommelgemsteenweg construction site, which was delayed by two months.
“That indeed means that there is no other option than to drive all the way via our neighboring municipality of Wommelgem and more specifically the Uilenbaan, Ternesselei and Krijgbaan. That’s a long way,” realizes Tom Tachelet.
The local government hopes to limit this abnormally long diversion to one week, even though work will continue in Stokerijstraat until mid-December. “We do this by temporarily allowing two-way traffic in the Kasteellei again. To ensure this runs smoothly, traffic lights will be placed on the corner of Lindenlei and Kasteellei. Cyclists will also have to respect these traffic lights. And only residents of Zevenbunder are allowed to use this temporary passage. The police will check on that local traffic,” Tachelet announces.
This is just a fraction of the work that will plague Wijnegem this autumn. In the meantime, the Albertkanaalbaan along the canal is still closed between Broekstraat and the center. And as if the devil is interfering, even Broekstraat has recently been interrupted. The fierce autumn storm at the beginning of November laid a tree across the road. The road surface was damaged to such an extent that the popular cobblestone shortcut will not be ready for traffic until November 17.
“People always say ‘you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs’. And temporary limited inconvenience is normal. But the different works that now coincide are truly unprecedented. It is therefore understandable that even the greatest optimist has difficulty putting this into perspective. I also like to see the glass half full, but I also feel the frustration and powerlessness when I find myself stuck in a traffic jam behind the corner. And the worst part is, we can adjust what we can control. But that is very little in this case,” shrugs Mayor Leen Wouters.
Wouters and Tachelet continue to hope that the biggest misery will be behind them by Christmas. “We continue to hope that the Wommelgemsteenweg/Koolsveldlaan/Eikenlaan intersection can be reopened, despite the setbacks from the utility companies. We keep our fingers crossed that possible freezing weather will not cause further delays.”
Dirk Verhaert (Vlaams Belang) criticizes the lack of consultation between the authorities involved. “I have been advocating for clear agreements with contractors for some time so that works can be better coordinated. Many people have the feeling that streets are starting to be opened today and that this will continue until after the winter, since much of this work is subject to weather conditions. Clear communication with a clear timeline that can be adjusted variably on a weekly basis can/will remove many frustrations.”