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Germany

Troubled Northeast Gets Lift from New Autobahn

About 25 billion euros went to revamping transportation infrastructure in east Germany after reunification. After 11 years, and 2 billion euros, one of the biggest projects is finally finished.

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A (new) highway runs through it

For decades, drivers had to endure the narrow streets leading through villages to get from East to West and back again. But now all that is to change with the completion of Germany's transport-project number one, the 325 km long Baltic Sea motorway or A20.

The autobahn, which runs parallel to the Baltic Sea, connects the western German city of Lübeck with Stettin in Poland and is being hailed as an economic boon to Germany's economically troubled northeast.

LKWs warten in Görlitz

Better access to the east

"The Baltic Sea motorway is very important for our state," said Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania premier Harald Ringstorff. "We did not have a single west-east- connection, but now we are going to benefit from the new A20. We already have a number of companies that settled along the motorway, it's great for us and everyone who wants to come here. Tourism is booming now too, especially short-term tourism."


Worth the wait

Volker Kock who oversees the project from the federal planning office says it took eleven years and 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) to build the four-lane A 20, the fastest a motorway has been built in Germany since the war. It connects the main land with Germany's biggest island Rügen. It also plays a major role in European east-west-transport.

"The A20 is part of the Trans-European street network and that shows its importance: Not only the connection from Lübeck to Stettin, but also the western link-up is now being discussed and planned," he said. "We are also looking east in the direction of Poland and we have to see what is happening in the new EU-countries."

Not everyone is happy about the construction of the A 20. Environmentalists have accused the motorway project of causing the biggest destruction of green sites since German reunification.

Die Ostseeautobahn A20 Lübeck Stettin

Construction of the 2 billion euro Autobahn took 11 years

But politicians and engineers say they have given the environment a high priority by allocating 10 percent of the budget to environmental measures, adding that the motorway is necessary for the boost of the economically underdeveloped region. Still, it is not clear how much the economic impact on Mecklenburg-West-Pomerania will be.

Officials hope that effective marketing and less bureaucracy will help draw investment and jobs to state. But instead, it could attract investors to Stettin in Poland where the wages are lower.

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