Infrastructure: dilapidated bridges, crumbling administration

Berlin Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) visited the disaster this Thursday that shocked him right at the beginning of his term in office: the closed Rahmede viaduct on the A 45 near Lüdenscheid. The bridge is so dilapidated that it has to be demolished. At the request of the minister, the local mayor has long called himself an ombudsman – like his colleague in Genoa, Italy, where a motorway bridge collapsed in 2018 and killed many people.

The A 45 near Lüdenscheid has been closed for more than eight months, and long-distance traffic is struggling through the villages to other motorways. In Genoa, the new bridge was in place after only two years; in Rahmede the bridge will probably not be blown up until the end of the year. Of the ADAC reckons it will be “at least five years” before trucks and cars can cross the new bridge again.

In the ministry they know: there is frustration in the region, from the residents to the entrepreneurs. Minister Wissing will have to listen to the complaints. The central question is: How can the federal government quickly renovate the many dilapidated bridges not only in Rahmede, but nationwide so that there are no further full closures?

Zanapple is a project company of the federal and state governments

In the next few years, more than 13,000 motorway bridges will have to be renovated, around 5,000 in the federal road network, around 1,800 of them “urgently”, as it is called in administrative German. the Autobahn Ltd The federal government has set itself the target of 2026 per year 400 bridges to rehabilitate, currently less than 100.

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The company has been responsible for the autobahns since 2021 and is still suffering from start-up pains. There is a lack of specialists and expertise, and there are no efficient processes. On the other hand, there is a small unit that is now the subject of a major dispute: the German unit for long-distance road planning and construction GmbH (Deges).

The project management company has been managing major projects for the federal government for 30 years – and so well that twelve federal states have joined. The company, with around 500 employees, oversees 126 projects. The federal government would be only too happy to take over the shares of the states (a good 70 percent). and Deges with their know-how as a new subsidiary of Autobahn Ltd set aside. The federal government has submitted its plan to the federal states.

But there are a number of countries that do not want to part with their shares. In the future, like the federal government, you yourself will have to renovate and rebuild thousands of bridges along the country roads. The Deges is a valuable help for them, the extended workbench, so to speak. Accordingly, the states decline in talks with the federal government.

They also reject the Federal Audit Office’s criticism of the previous structure. The auditors have been criticizing for years that Deges is an “inadmissible mixed administration”. In addition, according to the constitution, the federal government should not be involved in two road construction administrations. The countries now refer to legal expertise. Their assessment is available to the Handelsblatt.

Deges wants to remain independent

The report was commissioned by the Deges Supervisory Board. The result: the coexistence is not a problem, the criticism of the Federal Audit Office is unfounded. Since Deges only carries out orders and does not take on any sovereign tasks, there are no constitutional concerns.

She could exist alongside the Autobahn company and continue to process orders for the federal and state governments, since she was merely a “vicarious agent”. “Due to the contractual provisions, the main decisions remain with the client,” says the expert opinion of the law firm White & Case in cooperation with the administrative lawyer and former director of the German Bundestag Horst Risse.

The federal states feel confirmed that the Deges should not become a task force for the Autobahn GmbH for the renovation of the bridges. Rather, it should remain independent. Employees should no longer look forward to an uncertain future. “The Federal Minister of Transport gets a fast team the quickest and best if he uses the existing capacities of the building authorities, the Deges and in particular the engineering offices and construction companies qualified for bridge construction,” says one federal state.

It was “a first class prank” to endanger the functionality of the Deges with a takeover by the federal government and the demotion as a subsidiary of the Autobahn GmbH. “Most of the Deges employees do not want to be under guardianship.” More employees could go, but the market is desperately looking for specialists: “In view of the immense task, it is important to make the profession of civil engineer attractive in order to be able to recruit a sufficient number of young engineers According to a situation analysis by the Ministry of Transport.

The state representatives refer to statements by the minister. After Rahmede’s bad news, he had invited to the “bridge summit” in March to clear the renovation backlog. There he promised “joint action, dialogue instead of confrontation and use of the best specialists”.

Deges has experts in all areas of planning law, operates on a project basis, has long since introduced digital construction and can plan and build much faster. “Federal authorities usually still require plans in paper form.” The federal government could instruct its Autobahn GmbH to become a member of the Deges. “It would be an option. The federal government would only have to want it.”

More: New chaos at Autobahn GmbH – now the state-owned company drives Peugeot

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