An awe-inspiring traffic intersection in the bustling heart of Rotterdam: behold what the tunnel developments will ultimately lead to. The plans will probably beat everything ever done in this area in the Netherlands up to now. For the intersection will cover a tract of land measuring half a kilometre in area. And to give you an impression of the size of the intersection: half a kilometre is the distance between Central Station and a spot about one hundred metres along Westersingel.
Het Vrije Volk 30-10-1959
The reconstruction of Rotterdam was an excellent opportunity to tackle the flow of traffic in the centre. An important intervention was the construction of a new road between Goudsesingel and the bridges over the Maas. The fifty-metre-wide boulevard, initially called Weg 55, was a key element of the Basic Plan by Cornelis van Traa. To the north, the road would connect with the new route along the covered River Rotte, and then link up with the national road to Delft and The Hague. To the south, the road would connect to a new bridge over the Maas beside the existing Willemsbrug, and then link up with Oranjeboomstraat. The new bridge would have to be a suspension bridge, elevated so high above the water that vessels could easily pass beneath. At Oudehaven there would be a gigantic roundabout on two levels. Oudehaven would be filled in and the Witte Huis would eventually be demolished.
The new bridge would have to be a suspension bridge, elevated so high above the water that vessels could easily pass beneath.
A seaport must build tunnels
This new river connection of grotesque proportions was presented in the form of spectacular artists impressions: a triple suspension bridge 250 metres long with two sections for road traffic, and one for rail traffic and a new concrete lifting bridge over Koningshaven. In 1955 the Committee to Replace the Willemsbrug endorsed this plan, but expressed a preference for tunnels. Committee member Plantema in particular, who later became director of the Department of Public Works, was a strong advocate of tunnels: a port must build tunnels and not bridges. Plantema achieved his first success with the metro tunnel. The idea to build one tunnel for rail and road transport with an even more imposing intersection surfaced again by 1970.
The traffic intersection at Blaak, 300 metres in diameter with a ‘free’ central area almost two hectares in size, will therefore receive through traffic above and below. The traffic from Blaak to Groenendaal will pass over a viaduct, while traffic in the opposite direction will pass through a tunnel. The traffic intersection, which also serves to take traffic back to street level (along a spiral), can only be accessed from Mariniersweg and Blaak.
Het Vrije Volk 22-8-1970
But the NS, Dutch Railways, decided that the Railway Bridge could operate for a little longer. Appreciation for the growth in car traffic had by then declined. People wanted to banish traffic as much as possible from the city centre. The Rotté-tracé, the planned motorway into the centre, was scrapped and a group of architects led by Jo van den Broek argued in favour of a bridge as a valuable element of the cityscape. In 1972 the city council opted for a bridge, and the new Willemsbrug was built between 1978 and 1981. In 1983 it was eventually decided to build a tunnel for rail traffic. The Willems Railway Tunnel was completed in 1993 and the distinctive viaduct was then demolished. With the development around Oudehaven in 1980, including small-scale housing and the Cube Dwellings by Piet Blom, the traffic intersection vanished from view at last.
The Rotté-tracé, the planned motorway into the centre, was scrapped and a group of architects led by Jo van den Broek argued in favour of a bridge as a valuable element of the cityscape.
Uncertainty concerning the plans for a traffic intersection at Oudehaven frustrated the development of the Hoogstraat area for years. For whether it was to be a bridge or a tunnel, a gigantic traffic intersection at the junction with Blaak was always envisaged: a spaghetti junction of interconnected roads with a diameter of three hundred metres. In other words, it would stretch from the Witte Huis to the tip of the apartment building by Maaskant on Groenendaal! So the idea of an intersection as big as the Kleinpolderplein intersection right in the city centre was contemplated! As long as no decision was taken, the area remained undeveloped, a barrier between the first and second stretch of Hoogstraat, even though the specifications for the completion of Hoogstraat were ready as early as 1955: a building block at Kipstraat and one opposite the Twaalfprovinciënhuis.
For whether it was to be a bridge or a tunnel, a gigantic traffic intersection at the junction with Blaak was always envisaged: a spaghetti junction of interconnected roads with a diameter of three hundred metres.
The construction of two sizeable structures on Hoogstraat, with a total of twenty shops and 63 flats, will not be able to go ahead. Both projects are completely detailed, and the first pile was soon to be driven into the ground after years of preparations. However, at the last moment one of the city departments discovered that the plans could not be constructed as designed owing to the planned big traffic intersection in front of new Maasbrug.
Het Vrije Volk 12-8-1955
Line of shop windows
This stretch of Hoogstraat, as well as a large part of Binnenrotte, would remain undeveloped until the end of the 1950s, to the despair of shopkeepers in the eastern part of the city centre. Nieuwemarkt shopkeepers joined forces and in 1957 came up with a plan to make the circuit around Pannekoekstraat, Nieuwemarkt and Hoogstraat more attractive.
That did not come to pass, because with the relocation of the weekly market from Noordplein to Binnenrotte, the desired connection between the first section of Hoogstraat and the area around Botersloot was established. But it would still be a long time before this district experienced an upturn in fortunes with the construction of the new library, the Cube Dwellings and Oudehaven. It was not until 2013 that the development around the Witte Huis above the railway tunnel would be completed, almost simultaneously with the wholesale renewal of Binnenrotte and the opening of the Market Hall.
They wanted to fill the disfiguring vacant sites between the railway viaduct and the Flevo building and give Hoogstraat an unbroken line of shop windows. The proposals will soon be implemented, and work is expected to last until mid-September.
Het Vrĳe Volk 6-7-1957
- Blaak, Rotterdam, Netherlands