How does road construction cause traffic

Transport infrastructure: Road construction increases traffic, not mobility!

(New motorway construction: Zauberhut /

2020: The Dannenröder forest is felled. A healthy, old mixed forest has to give way for a new motorway. Instead of air for life, asphalt and exhaust fumes are created.

Bad planning and neglect have shaped the transport policy of the past decades. Countless large and new construction projects

  • do not lead to more mobility, but only to more traffic,

  • cut through landscapes and destroy ecosystems,

  • prevent enough money from flowing into the maintenance of the existing infrastructure and the financing of public transport projects

  • cause a massive increase in road traffic throughout Germany and thus harm the environment and climate targets.

It could also be done differently. With a consistent traffic turnaround, in which no new roads are built that we will not need in the future. Then there would be less noise, better air and health and instead of gigaprojects there would be money for fair and social mobility on site, for example through the expansion of local public transport.

Example of a new trunk road:

Sources: Federal Ministry of Transport, Deutsche Bahn AG, Network Rails

In 2019, 233 kilometers of new trunk roads were completed, but only six kilometers of new rails. If you look at all road projects, since 1994 there have been only one kilometer of new rails for every 150 kilometers of new roads. New roads, especially new trunk roads, do not help to make the transport of goods and the mobility of people sustainable and future-proof.

Example transport of goods and goods:

Source: Federal Statistical Office

The effects of transport policy, which disproportionately favor cars and trucks, can also be seen when looking at the transport of goods. Just under eleven percent of goods are transported by train, while over 89 percent are transported by truck.

Up until 2018, the number of goods transported on dark roads has also risen steadily: In 1990, 2.9 billion tons were transported by truck, in 2000 it was 3.2 billion and in 2018 it was 3.7 billion tons. On the other hand, the number of goods transported by train is stagnating - even though rail transport is considerably more environmentally friendly.

Example greenhouse gases:

Source: Federal Statistical Office, Federal Environment Agency

So far, Germany has not managed to noticeably reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traffic. However, transport is a crucial sector in order to achieve the goals that the states have bindingly agreed on in the Paris Climate Agreement.

If, for example, more goods were transported by rail instead of by road, considerable amounts of carbon dioxide could be saved. Rail freight transport currently emits 84 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than truck transport per tonne and kilometer transported. With 56.8 million tons of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (calculated in carbon dioxide equivalents) annually, truck transports contribute significantly to the heating of the earth.

Example of federal trunk road planning:

Sources: Federal Ministry of Transport, Federal Environment Agency

In the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030 from 2016, 850 kilometers of new motorways and federal highways are planned. That corresponds to a distance from Munich to Flensburg.

Yet Germany already has one of the densest trunk road networks in Europe.

These plans are also incompatible with the Paris climate protection agreement. They cut up and seal the landscape, destroy ecosystems and lead to a further increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Share our infographics. You can download the graphics here:

Creative Commons License: CC BY-ND; Free to use for editorial purposes, mentioning BUND, no editing

Creative Commons License: CC BY-ND; Free to use for editorial purposes, mentioning BUND, no editing

Creative Commons License: CC BY-ND; Free to use for editorial purposes, mentioning BUND, no editing

Creative Commons License: CC BY-ND; Free to use for editorial purposes, mentioning BUND, no editing

The Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030

In the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan (BVWP), investments in the maintenance, expansion and new construction of all modes of transport are specified for 15 years. The current Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030 is from 2016. The BVWP 2030 is primarily a road construction-oriented work, which contains a number of major motorway projects and also the wishes of the states, district administrators and mayors and members of the Bundestag for hundreds of bypasses summed up in the regions and constituencies. The basic concept for the FTIP 2030 promised an approach based on defined goals and a national priority concept that primarily wanted to preserve the existing infrastructure and remove bottlenecks.

In addition to improving the performance of the infrastructure in freight and passenger traffic as well as traffic safety, three environmental goals were formulated as goals: reduction of pollutants, protection of nature and landscape and improvement of the quality of life in communities. However, the draft of the BVWP 2030 and the three expansion laws did not achieve any of these goals: up to ten million tons of CO2 could be saved per year if traffic were shifted to rail and ship.

To do this, however, the rail network must be expanded in a targeted manner. 42 percent of the investment funds of the BVWP 2030 are to be invested in the railways, 49 percent in trunk roads (i.e. motorways and federal highways) and 9 percent in waterway projects.

Alternatives are not examined

The examination of alternatives required by European and German law took place in some rail projects, but not in any of the well over a thousand long-distance road construction projects. Even where the BUND had proposed expansion alternatives or rail instead of road instead of the oversized new building of roads, the Federal Ministry of Transport and its experts decided in favor of new buildings that eat up the landscape and waste tax money. No wonder that the draft plan misses all of the goals of land and landscape conservation.

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