Amsterdam to tackle neglected bridges and quays

Amsterdam is pushing more money and effort into repairing and maintaining bridges and quays in the city, the maintenance of which was neglected over the past decades, the municipality announced. This follows a report by external researcher Pieter Cloo, who concluded that getting the maintenance of civil construction in the city back on par is a complex, major and extremely urgent task.

The municipality is responsible for the safety and maintenance of a total of 1,600 bridges, 600 kilometers of quays and banks, and 5 traffic tunnels. Of the 200 kilometers of quay walls in the city, at least 10 kilometers are in very poor condition with an increased risk of collapse, Cloo concluded after inspecting the city's infrastructure on behalf of the municipality. There are also six bridges that are in such bad shape that immediate intervention is necessary. 

It was agreed in the coalition agreement that 22.5 million euros will be structurally made available to the City Mobility Fund for replacement and maintenance. Alderman Sharon Dijksma told NOS that repairing and maintaining these bridges and quays will cost hundreds of millions of euros in the coming years. "Some of these bridges are older than 100 years. They are dealing with a load of traffic that they were not built for. We have to intervene at a much higher pace than we are used to, and at the same time catch up on the accumulated backlog", she said to the broadcaster.

According to Het Parool, these hundreds of millions of euros are just the tip of the iceberg. The Amsterdam coalition is working on a sum of 2 billion euros that will have to be invested in the city's basic infrastructure in the long term, the newspaper wrote last week. 

Cloo made five recommendations to the municipality. Firstly, the load on quays and bridges in the form of heavy traffic must be reduced drastically. The programmatic approach to bridges and quays must be strengthened, and the financing of the program must be more flexible and structurally available. The city must also invest in the organization, and focus on scaling up on innovation and cooperation with the market and knowledge institutes.

"This report shows the vulnerability of the accessibility of our city", Dijksma said in a press release. "The moment we do not have the basic infrastructure, needed to make this city function properly, in order, we are doing something wrong. We have to deal more carefully with all the beauty that this city has to offer. We owe that to the residents and visitors of the city, but also the generations that come after us. That is why action is needed. In recent years too little happened because maintenance is not a sexy subject, but it is essential for the city. In all considerations made by the office [of mayor and aldermen], the safety of the city and its residents and visitors is always paramount."

Amsterdam is already working on some of Cloo's recommendations, the municipality said. The city is intensely monitoring the most critical areas and where safety is at stake, immediate measures are taken. For example, the six bridges that are in bad shape have been completely or partially closed, and emergency measures have been taken at a number of vulnerable areas along the quays. The municipality also banned freight traffic of over 7.5 tons in a zone in the city center.  And the city is working on the program-based approach that Cloo recommends. 

The municipality acknowledges that more needs to be done to solve these problems. To that purpose, the Spring Memorandum will include a decision for a new financial system, which must provide the necessary structural funding. These resources will be flexible in order to respond to immediate needs. The municipality is also immediately increasing restrictions on the use of vulnerable structures, and developing new policy to keep heavy traffic off these structures.