It was the Arlésienne local, with its supports and its detractors. For the past twenty-five years ago, the inhabitants of the basins of saint-etienne and lyon heard of this highway 45 (A45), repeatedly validated but always rejected. One promised that she décongestionnerait traffic between the two cities and would enhance the area ; others saw it as mainly a financial mismanagement leading to the destruction of 500 hectares of agricultural land.

The minister of transport, Elizabeth Terminal, put an end to the confrontation. Wednesday 17 October, the government announced that the project was finally abandoned, on the grounds that ” the State favours the alternative road and rail to the A45 “. A decision which did not fail to provoke the anger of some local politicians, who were quick to denounce a governmental treason. Back on a major policy reversal.

what is the project of highway 45 ?

It was in 1993 that the first feasibility studies are undertaken for this project of 48 kilometers of highway, planned to connect Brignais, a town located south of Lyon, Fouillouse, located to the north of Saint-Etienne. This portion of road is expected to double highway 47, one line of 40 kilometres through the valley industrielle du Gier, very accident-prone and regularly saturated – nearly 100 000 vehicles per day on average.

the total cost of The project is estimated at 1.2 billion euros. A high price for a project of this size, which can be explained by the need to build four tunnels and eleven viaducts. The plan of financing, which was negotiated during more than fifteen years, provided support to the tune of one-third by the private operator selected – Vinci –, and two-thirds by the State and the local government, or 790 million of public funds.

Our reporting in 2017 :   protest against the highway A45, “useless and climaticide”

Why is this a shift of policy ?

After years of dilly-dallying government under the orders of Jacques Chirac, 2008 seemed to mark a turning point in the history of the project A45. At the end of the Grenelle environment forum, which provided the stop of building inter-city motorway – the minister of the environment and spatial planning Jean-Louis Borloo, had then declared the project of public utility. A green light which should speed up the process.

The call for nominations for the private concessionaire was launched on 25 April 2012, a few weeks of the end of the quinquennium of Nicolas Sarkozy. But some points of the funding continued to be a problem – especially on the side of the elected officials of the lyon region. In 2016, the secretary of State in charge of transport, Alain Vidalies, announces the company’s selection of Vinci Autoroutes, as licensee, for the completion and operation for fifty-five years of the future toll road. A new crucial step towards the birth of the project, which has received a favourable opinion from the Council of State in 2017.

But the tide is turning for the A45. As for many other large infrastructure projects, the challenge is getting organized. After the first legal proceedings launched by elected Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV), is the ratio Duron, drafted by the council of orientation of the infrastructure at the beginning of 2018, which calls to suspend the project and find an alternative acceptable to all “. A board will, therefore, have chosen to take part in the government of Edouard Philippe, to the surprise of local elected officials.

The point of   the winners and losers of large transport infrastructure projects

What is the argument of the government ?

To the minister of transport, the conclusion is clear : “On the A45, a priori if it was a consensual one might assume that it would be already done. So this is a project that raises many questions. “Following the recommendations of the report of Duron, the minister recalled the three major weaknesses of the project A45 :

an adverse environmental impact on the coteaux du Jarez and the monts du Lyonnais, with the destruction of 500 hectares of agricultural land and orchards ;an under-sizing for the arrival of Lyon and The Fouillouse ;a subsidy rate that is too high for a concession.

But Elizabeth Terminal is not distributed with empty hands so far :

” I will say this very clearly, there are 400 million euros which was provided for in the participation of the State to the highway A45, these 400 million euros will be invested anyway to improve the links between Lyon and Saint-Etienne. “

In detail, this amount is expected to fund the creation of bands emergency stop on the whole of the A47, the processing of the node Givors-Ternay, in particular with an enlargement, and a better connection to the A47 to A46. It could also serve to strengthen the railway line between Lyon and St Etienne, today one of the routes the most popular of France with over 20 000 passengers and 120 trains per day.

And now ?

” the abandonment of The project A45 sounds like a real disaster for the residents, businesses, and the lifeblood of the great basin formed by the cities of Saint-Etienne and Lyon “, has reacted vehemently to the collective A45. In unison, Gaël Perdriau, mayor of Saint-Etienne, Laurent Wauquiez, the president of the regional council of Auvergne, Rhône-Alpes, and George Ziegler, the president of the council for the département of the Loire, have denounced a ” method unworthy “.

But local officials are not all disappointed by this decision. In a joint press release, Régis Juanico, member of parliament for the Loire (Generation.s), Jean-Claude Tissot, senator of the Loire (group of socialist and republican) and Johann Cesa, first federal secretary of PS Loire, and estimated that ” projects that are not able to see the light of day for over thirty years, are, by definition, bad projects “.

Should we see the abandonment of this project challenged the sign of a slight change in direction for the government, after the departure shattering at the beginning of September the minister of ecology, Nicolas Hulot, who implored the head of State to be “at the height of the worst challenge that humanity has ever encountered” ? Still, other projects, polemics continue to advance, in the image of the great western bypass of Strasbourg. At the beginning of September, opponents to this project dating back to 1973 had been curtly disposed of by the police.

Sam Yoon has many years of experiences in journalism. He has covered such areas as information technology, science, sports and politics. Yoon can be reached at 82-2-6956-6698.