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Easing traffic Lake Geneva tunnel project turned down by voters

Opponents said the tunnel would only exacerbate Geneva's chronic traffic problems


Voters in canton Geneva have rejected plans to build a new 1.5-kilometre-long road tunnel under the lake close to the city’s famous Jet d’Eau fountain.

In Sunday's cantonal vote,  63% of voters turned down the initiative to construct a tunnel at the far western end of the lake, known locally as “La Rade”. Turnout was 57%.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party initiative had pushed the initiative, backed by the Touring Club of Switzerland (TCS) motoring association, arguing that Geneva suffers from huge mobility problems and a new road tunnel under the lake was urgently needed to relieve the heavily congested city centre and the Mont Blanc Bridge.

But most other political parties as well as a number of environmental and local community groups had rejected the initiative, calling it outdated, too expensive and environmentally unfriendly. They claimed the Rade tunnel would actually make things worse, creating a pull-effect, gridlock and pollution at the tunnel access points close to the centre.

After rejecting the Rade tunnel, attention now turns to another bigger tunnel initiative recently launched by the centre-right Radical and Christian Democrat parties.

They propose to build a longer 4km tunnel at a wider part of the lake, which would link up to the cantonal ring road and Swiss-French motorway network. This would cost CHF3.5 billion and may be eligible for federal funds. But the project is not likely to be realised before 2030 at the earliest - or 2050.  

The question of whether to build a bridge or tunnel in Geneva to help people cross from one side of the lake to the other and ease congestion has been debated for years.

In June 1988, 68% of local voters agreed in principle to a new lake crossing. However, in June 1996, two-thirds of voters rejected plans to build either a tunnel or a bridge across the lake.

Vote results in the cantons

Basel City and Basel Country won’t merge: The two Basel cantons won’t become one after a vote on September 28 where 68.3% of voters in Basel Country said no to the beginning of merger negotiations. Supporters of the merger had argued it would save both cantons money, politicians against the measure argued citizens of Basel Country should preserve their rural identity and not fuse themselves to a city. 

Transparency in politics: The latest Swiss call for full transparency in politics was nipped in the bud as voters in canton Aargau rejected an initiative seeking to shed light on campaign financing and politicians’ financial entanglements. Voters rejected the proposal with 55.7% no votes. 

Electing foreigners: Canton Jura has voted 54% in favour of allowing foreigners to hold seats in government, while canton Schaffhausen 85% of voters said no to a proposal that would have allowed some non-Swiss to vote.

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