Autobahn toll plan attracts backlash
German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to charge everyone for the privilege of driving on the country's speedy autobahn, except Germans.
After weeks of negotiations, Merkel's conservative bloc and the Social Democrats agreed to levy a toll for using the country's highways as part of a deal to form a governing coalition. While details remain vague before they take power, which will be after Social Democrat party members vote on the agreement by Thursday, the one clear stipulation is that the tax shouldn't result in additional costs for Germans.
The plan has unleashed a backlash. Drivers from neighboring countries say Germany is undermining Europe's open borders. Even locals question the point of a targeted toll, which would raise about $352 million, according to an estimate from German car club ADAC, because it would do little to cover costs to upgrade aging infrastructure.
“We have made Europe into a place with the free flow of traffic, and now we really threaten this,” said Mike Pinckaers, a spokesman for Dutch drivers' association ANWB. If Germany starts such a toll, other countries could follow suit, creating divisions and potentially “eroding the European spirit.”
Germany was a transport pioneer when it opened Europe's first car-only freeway in 1921 in Berlin. The free-wheeling autobahn, which often doesn't have a speed limit, has spurred a motoring culture, helping Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG's Audi and Porsche dominate the market for high-end cars.
That legacy of speed is in jeopardy as money spent on roads, bridges, railways and public transport has fallen in real terms or stagnated over the past two decades, while passenger traffic has climbed 27 percent and freight use has soared 75 percent, according to data from the Environment Ministry and German economic researcher DIW.
Germany has the most neighbors in Europe, sharing about 2,330 miles of borders with nine nations. European countries such as Italy and France already require drivers to pay fees at highway toll booths.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Surfer seriously injured in Australian shark attack
- Turkey aims guns at Kurdish rebels
- Extremist strikes again in attack on gay parade in Jerusalem
- China says U.S. trying to militarize South China Sea
- India hangs man who raised funds in support of 1993’s deadly Mumbai bombings
- Former Omar deputy to lead Afghan Taliban
- Nigerian leader: U.S. law based on alleged human rights violations ‘aids’ Boko Haram
- Nigeria celebrates year without polio
- On final day in Kenya, Obama makes it personal in call for reform
- Syria’s embattled President Assad admits manpower shortage
- Turkey to stick with air offensive in ISIS battle