Dhe traffic light coalition is split on the question of whether the construction of new roads should be faster in the future – and this is also delaying other large infrastructure projects. The FDP and the Greens are currently at loggerheads as to which mode of transport should benefit from the traffic light coalition’s ambitious promise that planning projects should be halved in the future.
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) made a decision on Monday: In the infrastructure sector, she only thinks that the expansion of the rail network and the maintenance and replacement of bridges make sense. For example, the construction of the Rahmede Viaduct near Lüdenscheid, which is to be blown up soon, is likely to be meant. In this area she sees “room for a compromise” with Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP).
However, Lemke also made it clear which projects did not need to be accelerated in her eyes: the construction and expansion of motorways, roads or waterways. “New motorways do not serve to achieve the climate goals, the opposite is the case,” she said. “I don’t think a lowering of environmental standards, noise or health protection is justifiable for the new motorway construction.”
Backing for Wissing
Your cabinet colleague Wissing sees it differently. He refers to a current traffic forecast by the Federal Office for Goods Transport, which for the year 2024 is not predicting a decline, but a sharp increase in the volume of transport on the road. The transport minister therefore insists that new roads be built more quickly in the future in order to be able to cope with the increase in car traffic. For this he got the backing of his party on Monday. A decision by the Presidium states: “We not only have to be able to quickly upgrade and expand our rail infrastructure, but also our road infrastructure.” traffic conditions are adjusted. “In this way, we prevent unreasonable burdens on citizens due to long delivery times, traffic jams and bypass traffic.”
In addition, the FDP took up another of Wissing’s ideas: They would like to enshrine a “sustainable infrastructure appropriate to the needs of the citizens” as a new state goal in the Basic Law. The demand, similar to the LNG Acceleration Act, to stipulate by law that transport projects “are in the public interest and serve public safety” goes in the same direction. And finally, the FDP also wants to prevent “legal uncertainty due to lengthy court proceedings”. Therefore, the list of projects for which the Federal Administrative Court is responsible in the first instance should be supplemented for the areas of roads and waterways.
Are the FDP’s plans “acceleration voodoo”?
The Bundestag member Lukas Benner (Greens) considers this to be “acceleration voodoo”: “Having more projects decided by the Federal Administrative Court in the first instance will not solve a single problem.” “That should give the FDP food for thought.”
You have to know that the traffic light coalition’s plan to speed up planning for major projects is currently stuck in several places. Even the federal and state governments cannot agree on a joint pact for planning acceleration. Before the last prime ministers’ conference last Thursday, the topic was taken off the agenda at short notice due to disagreements. It will now be discussed again in January.
Minister of Justice Buschmann has already cleared a hurdle
Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) is also offended with his plan to speed up the administrative court proceedings. Both the Federal Administrative Court and the Presidents of the Higher Administrative Courts have recently expressed clear criticism of the minister’s plan to oblige the judiciary to act more quickly. His draft law has now been approved by the cabinet – and thus also by Environment Minister Lemke. The Federal Council will deal with the project for the first time on Friday. It is to be expected that the regional chamber will still have a few change requests.
The judges of the administrative courts are concerned about the planned reform. In the court proceedings, a deadline is to apply to the planning authorities being sued, within which they must react to the allegations of complaining citizens or environmental organizations. If the authority comes too late, the arguments should then no longer be taken into account. The idea for this came from the Federal Ministry for the Environment and follows the demand of nature conservation organizations for “equality of arms” – after all, so far only they can be set a deadline in the process. In the future, these requirements would also have to apply to the planning authorities and project developers.
The administrative judges now object, however, that the procedures would not be faster as a result. On the contrary, there would be more delays. According to a joint letter from the OVG presidents, it is regularly the case that criticisms of infrastructure projects are only understandable or their justification can be checked after the authority has explained contested studies on the environmental impact of a project. If the court is no longer allowed to consider explanations after the deadline has expired, the question arises as to how to proceed. Should the court have to do its own research, for example on questions of species protection, the procedure would be considerably longer.