Utrecht restores historic canal made into motorway in 1970s
Utrechtse canal, The Netherlands. Image: mcmcqueen01 Pixabay CC0
The restoration of the stadsbuitengracht (outer-city canal) is being seen as a correction of a historic mistake.The work first began in the 1990s.
The reopening of the canal Catharijnesingel attracted pleasure boats and even a few swimmers into the water, with the alderman for the central Hoog Catharijne district, Eelco Eerenberg, lauding the “grand conclusion” of two decades of work. Residents had voted in a 2002 referendum for a city-centre “master plan”, in which water would replace roads. But efforts have been boosted in more recent years by a broader attempt by the municipality to sideline the car and promote healthier living.
The restored section of the canal had been filled in to allow cars better access to Utrecht’s shopping district in the 1970s. The waterway now runs under an indoor shopping centre, allowing boats to travel the full 6km route around the city centre. Eerenberg said the municipality had chosen “water and greenery over a highway for cars”. “It is quite unique for a motorway, with space for 12 lanes, to be converted back”, he said. “Now that the canal is back, it provides a beautiful connection to a plethora of important urban functions. Among other things, the station, a pop stage, theatre, and greenery have found their place at the water.”