With 5,218 votes cast, the rejection was 77.4 percent, as the municipality announced. The result is not legally binding – however, for Mayor Kurt Fischer (ÖVP), the result of the referendum should serve as a basis for the community’s stance.
The specific question is: “Should the market town of Lustenau, as a party in official proceedings and in advance of these, take all legal and political means to enable the construction of the S18, variant CP (eastern bypass along the edge of the settlement)?” 1,175 respondents voted “yes” and 4,023 voted “no”. The voter turnout was 30.2 percent. 17,267 citizens were eligible to vote.
“A clear no is a milestone”
The Greens are pleased with the results of the referendum. “This clear and unequivocal no is a milestone. We see that the population is years ahead of politics. People don’t want another motorway that attracts even more traffic and concretes over our beautiful and valuable landscape,” said Christine Bösch-Vetter, Green local councilor in Lustenau, in a broadcast. “Faster and more sensible transport solutions” should now be debated.
The NEOS also wanted to “fully respect” the result. “This vote shows that alternative transport solutions and innovative concepts must finally be the focus of the discussion,” said Lustenau parliamentary group leader Mathias Schwabegger in a broadcast. “Obviously the skepticism towards the S18 is still too great and no one believes that the ÖVP in Lustenau and in the country will be able to implement it quickly,” said the NEOS.
“My position and that of the SPÖ Vorarlberg is clear: After more than 50 years of discussions, we must take concrete steps to relieve the burden on the affected population,” demanded state party leader Mario Leiter. “The latest developments surrounding the S18 clearly show that the vast majority of Lustenau residents did not reject the project itself, but rather the way the referendum was carried out,” Philipp Kreinbucher, chairman of the SPÖ Lustenau, also referred to the low voter turnout.
8.5 kilometer long local bypass
The CP variant of the S18 is an approximately 8.5 kilometer long bypass of Lustenau, starting from the Dornbirn-West motorway junction in Switzerland to St. Margrethen (Canton of St. Gallen) – this would also provide a high-level connection between the two motorway systems in Switzerland and Austria. The S18 would have a relief effect, especially for Lustenau, but also for the Lake Constance communities. However, according to the current planning status of the road construction company Asfinag, the realization of the road, which will cost around 2 billion euros, before 2040 seems unrealistic in any case.
The high-level connection to the Swiss motorway network has been discussed in Vorarlberg for decades. After the former variant of the S18 – it would have led above ground through the last reed landscape remaining in the lower Vorarlberg Rhine Valley – was overturned by the Constitutional Court in 2006, after years of testing, the CP emerged as the most promising from a large number of variants in terms of approval crystallized. It is favored by the state of Vorarlberg, the Ministry of Transport under Leonore Gewessler (Greens) brought another variant “Lustenau-Süd” back into play after an evaluation, to the displeasure of state politics, business and residents in the region, which, however, is not high-ranking.
Gewessler also reminded of this on Sunday after the result was announced. The planning for this now needs to be “further intensified”. The Transport Minister called on those involved to pull together. “The citizens of the most affected community made one thing very clear today: in 2023 there must be better solutions than a motorway through a nature reserve,” emphasized Gewessler.
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