IN FOCUS INTERVIEW WITH JÖRG ALBRECHT
The widening of the A6 highway is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in southern Germany. The project, which is organized as a public-private partnership (PPP), will eliminate a notorious traffic bottleneck. One of the communities along the highway is Sinsheim. In the following interview, Sinsheim’s mayor, Jörg Albrecht, tells concepts reporter Jan Freitag how important the widening of the highway and the associated environmental compensation measures are for his town.
concepts Mayor Albrecht, how will the expansion of the A6 to form a six-lane section of European Route 50 benefit Sinsheim, the surrounding district, and the state of Baden-Württemberg?
Jörg Albrecht The most important improvement for our town in particular and for the state in general is the reduction of the excessive traffic burden and of the associated number of accidents, traffic jams, and detours. This will also reduce the workload for our fire departments. We’ve waited for this expansion for a long, long time and we’ll be happy when it’s finished.
concepts Besides improving the traffic flow, will it also enhance the region as a whole?
Albrecht Definitely. Sinsheim is a great example of how transportation infrastructure brings economic benefits. The better a place is connected, the more companies will settle there. The Sinsheim Süd exit, for example, paved the way for the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim soccer stadium and the Badewelt…
concepts …which is the largest water park in Baden-Württemberg.
Albrecht It also makes the region more attractive for tourism. The same applies to the construction of noise barriers. Together with the use of noise-reducing asphalt, the installation of more than 13 kilometers of additional noise barriers is greatly improving the quality of life of many people living along the highway. We welcome this improvement and its design. That’s because the barriers are not being built in the cheapest way possible but rather in line with specific needs.
concepts Do you think this is because the project is a public-private partnership?
Albrecht I think so. In addition, the way bids were invited for the project meant that more medium-size companies from the region are involved in the construction measures. But the involvement of companies from outside our region also brings economic benefits through an increase in overnight stays and retail sales. All of this ultimately translates into economic growth.
concepts Do the procurement activities of the PPP also benefit your community?
Albrecht Yes. Although we have almost nothing to do with the construction site from an organizational and legal standpoint—apart from geographic proximity—we are well integrated into all the processes. It’s almost as if we were the client rather than the German government. We are extensively informed about practically every development step. We would never have dared to request such treatment. I’ve never seen a public construction project where so many of the people responsible voluntarily provide in-depth information about how things are progressing. We certainly notice the difference between a PPP and a purely public or purely private construction project. Moreover, I can pass on all of this information to the public.
concepts Some of the public are critical of such big construction sites and of the performance of public tasks by private companies. Have you noticed any increase in acceptance?
Albrecht I certainly have. The level of acceptance is very high. One of the reasons for this is that people have been looking forward to the highway expansion for at least ten years. Most people don’t see who put the excavators there, only whether the machines are in action. Many people also appreciate the fact that the excavators are always busy and that the disturbance they cause is minimal even though 100,000 vehicles drive through here every day. Although accidents have occurred due to the narrowing of the lanes around the construction site, people don’t ascribe this to the construction project itself, but rather to carelessness. Moreover, this situation is only temporary. Everyone benefits from this measure.
concepts Nature benefits as well, thanks to various environmental protection and compensation measures.
Albrecht As a community, we want sustainable measures that benefit the environment, which is very important for our region. It’s crucial that the compensation and protection measures are implemented quickly, promptly, and as planned so that the residents can see that nature conservation is taken seriously without delaying infrastructure measures.
concepts Is this also because nature conservation and compensation measures help to improve the quality of life?
Albrecht Definitely. Here in the Kraichgau region, we have the big advantage that our diverse natural environment makes us one big compensation measure. Our region is being further upgraded by the planting of environmentally beneficial and visually appealing vegetation along the highway and by the creation of biotopes for the protection of plant and animal species. Conservation is also benefiting from a reduction of the occurrence of traffic jams because this leads to less emissions. This is especially the case during rush hour, for example, and before and after German national soccer league games.
concepts Around 30,000 people come and go at the same time during these games.
Albrecht Everyone therefore has a reason to breathe easier.
About the project ⇨ The PPP project Via6West is updating and expanding the A6 highway along a 47.2-kilometer stretch of road extending from the Wiesloch/Rauenberg connecting point to the Weinsberg interchange. The highway is being widened to six lanes and the work is being conducted without interrupting traffic. In addition, 79 engineering structures are being built, including overpasses and underpasses as well as a new bridge across the Neckar River. Once construction has been completed, the section of highway covered by the contract will be privately operated and maintained for a period of 30 years. The project is being realized by a consortium made up of HOCHTIEF PPP Solutions, Johann Bunte Bauunternehmung, and DIF; HOCHTIEF Infrastructure is also part of the construction joint venture.
About Jörg Albrecht ⇨ The mayor of Sinsheim since 2012, he is also a member of the Rhein-Neckar district council, representing the Christian Democratic Party (CDU). He received the most votes in the district council election in 2019.