New bridge over, not tunnel under, Amsterdam's IJ increasingly likely

Shipping traffic on the IJ at Amsterdam Centraal
Shipping traffic on the IJ at Amsterdam CentraalPhoto: nilaya/DepositPhotos

It seems increasingly likely that a new cycling bridge will be built over the IJ river in Amsterdam, instead of a tunnel under it. Research by the Ministry of Infrastructure showed that raising the existing bridges over the river higher will cost unaffordable amounts of money, which eliminates the need to build the new bridge extra high - the main argument for building a tunnel instead. 

The city of Amsterdam is in favor of building a cycling bridge as a "fixed bank connection" to Amsterdam Noord, because the construction of a tunnel is more expensive, Het Parool reports. The only way in which a tunnel would be cheaper than a bridge, is if one of the two tubes of the existing IJ tunnel is designated a cycling tunnel. But this would mean that there will be two-way car traffic in the other tube of the tunnel, which is in violation of the regulations for tunnels. 

The main obstacle in the years-long discussion about building a new bridge over the IJ was its height - the bridge must be high enough for shipping traffic to pass underneath, according to Het Parool. Amsterdam wants the bridge at 9.10 meters high - the same height as most other bridges on the shipping route. Public works department Rijkswaterstaat, the Ministry of Infrastructure, and the maritime industry want the bridge built at east 11.35 meters high.

Building the bridge higher than 9.10 meters would make it impractical for the cyclists who are meant to use it. They will have to battle through a steeper incline, especially since there is hardly any room on the densely built Amsterdam ramparts to make the run-up longer. Many, including the previous Infrastructure Minister Mealnie Schultz van Haegen, therefore supported rather building a tunnel under the IJ. 

Building the bridge at 11.35 meters height only makes sense if the other bridges on the shipping routes around Amsterdam are also raised to this height. Otherwise ships too tall for the 9.10 meter high bridges won't be able to reach the new bridge in any case. Last week Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure and Water Management sent a letter to parliament stating that an extensive cost-benefit analysis shows that raising the other bridges that span the IJ is practically unaffordable.

This means that the new bridge can be built at the same height as the other bridges on the shipping routes.


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