This familiar sign that means your trip is going to take an unexpected detour
It is said that all roads lead to Rome, but one thing is certain, not all roads lead to Esch. In fact, some days there are no roads leading to Esch because all are closed.
I have had to drive to Esch and come back twice a day for a few weeks, early in the morning (leaving my house at 6:45 am). No matter what time the highway is always bumper to bumper so from my location in the west I take several side roads either via Dippach and Wincrange or via Schouweiler, Mondercange and Foetz.
The other day each of these roads was closed. I felt like someone really didn’t want me to go to Esch. It’s south of my house as the crow flies, but I had taken so many detours that I felt like I had zigzagged through most of Luxembourg.
Why so many road closures at once?
Well, I guess it could be P&T rolling out this fiber that they promise 75% of Luxembourg residents by 2023. Having moved from a city where super-high-speed and high-speed connections were the norm, I have been waiting for this moment – the one when I get over 4 Mbps – since I first moved to Luxembourg.
It could also be work to put in place infrastructure for new housing that we badly need. I would be willing to put up with that given the gravity of the housing stock situation here, if I actually saw someone working. More often than not, the lights change and I pass a well-groomed piece of road with a lone digger – and not a worker in sight.
Why is it also, that there is no one in charge of planning some kind of coordination on the road works. How come all the roads leading to a specific location are closed for a day, with detours frustratingly leading to further detours, due to even more road closures.
Who plans the diversions?
Do you remember all this work at the Walferdange roundabout? The link (500m maximum) to Helmsange was closed for months. What a brilliant traffic planner first decided to divert the traffic via Beggen, Eich and up to Waldhof before descending to Helmsange.
Does the person responsible for planning road closures have a roadmap?
A week after making this 45-minute detour, I discovered a faster route on my way to the Walferdange shopping center. A few meters on the road to Steinsel, I could have crossed a bridge to Helmsange in just five minutes. Yes, the work planners finally fixed the detours in this area, but not before several people like me took an impromptu tour of the forests of Grunwald.
Then there is the work in Bertrange. Unable to cross town, cannot go to Strassen (one way), which means everyone is diverted to Route de Longwy which is already very busy most mornings. Likewise, you can expect to crawl along the road from Arlon to Mamer, where pretty much all the secondary roads have a road closed sign. Nobody understood that these are two of the main arteries of the city?
A road in my village has since been closed before containment. Half-built homes remain unattended as the developer went bankrupt, but the diversion and signage for closed roads are still there. I pretend that I’m on this path and taking it anyway, because I know there is no real work going on at any point. Just those red and white posts that carefully line the road.
Good roads, too bad they are not open
Of course, Luxembourg’s roads are incomparable. I didn’t need my GPS to tell me that I was crossing between Belgium and Luxembourg during a trip to Surré near Boulaide. I could say roads. Giant potholes, overgrown vegetation and no road markings – it must be Belgium. Smooth tarmac, whiter-than-white road markings and well-maintained roadsides – back to Luxembourg.
That day, when it looked like there was no road leading to Esch, it took me almost two hours to get there. It wasn’t rush hour, there were just endless road closures. My GPS told me to “turn around if possible” so many times that she got bored, sulked and stayed silent on me. She clearly thought that I had gone mad because I was constantly going in the wrong direction, despite her clear instructions.
City of culture or closures?
I will be driving to Esch daily for the foreseeable future, and I have been hit with road accidents, heavy hail in June (okay, no one could predict that), road works, road closures, rush-hour garbage collection (really? What planning expert came up with that one?), all conspiring to make commute time unpredictable and blood boil.
Esch will be the European City of Culture in 2022 but if this level of work continues, no one will be able to make it to the celebrations, as they will all be following detour signs that turn them in circles.
Could this be a new street art fresco for Esch?
Famous for his urban street art, Kulturfabrik can perhaps order a mural showing a blocked road and a detour sign, as this appears to be Esch’s epitaph.
More seriously, someone with map reading skills should be responsible for planning these road works to ensure that it is still possible to go from A to B without giving the impression that the detour was designed so that drivers feel like a very drunk, tottering person at home late at night.
Welcome to the car office
In the country’s last election, transportation and traffic were a high priority on the agenda, but with half the number of people commuting due to Covid restrictions and continued work from home, there are still has serious traffic jams on country roads. And if it’s not volume, then it’s poor planning (and the weird tractor / bin collection vehicle).
What will happen when traffic returns to pre-Covid levels? I guess Luxembourg will be the first country to invent the car office, because most of us will be on the road, following detours, for most of the working day.
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