Libeňský most likely to be torn down

The City Council has voted to replace the bridge without an architectural competition

The situation looks grim for Libeňský most (Libeň Bridge). The Prague City Council supports demolishing the bridge down to its support pillars, which would be reused for a new bridge. The demolition must still be confirmed by 65-member Prague Assembly, which will discuss the issue April 26.

The proposal for demolition was agreed to by seven of the 11 members of the City Council.

Those from ANO and ČSSD supported the demolition. Members of the Three-Party Coalition (Greens, KDU-ČSL and STAN) opposed it. In the Assembly, the opposition parties TOP 09 and ODS are expected to join ANO and ČSSD in support the demolition.

“From the conclusions of the experts involved in, for example, the construction of the bridge at Troja, it is clear that from a transport and efficiency point of view, it is better to build a new bridge and use the pillars of the existing one,” Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) said after the vote.

He also made comments on social media. “All experts say this option is the fastest and most effective in view of the durability, functionality and safety of the bridge, as well as most economical in terms of future costs. In my view, Prague as soon as possible needs a functional and secure Libeňský most, which plays a key role in case of floods. We also need to have it because of future necessary repairs to other bridges,” he said.

He added that he knew there was opposition from the Prague 7 administration, Greens and activists.

“In the interest of all Praguers and Prague transport, I believe I will succeed and build the bridge,” he said, adding the hashtag #novyLibenskymost.

Dolínek says it is possible to build based on an existing building permit. In the case of renovation of the bridge, Prague would have to go through the entire approval and licensing procedure.

He downplayed the inconvenience, saying the bridge would be out of operation for only a short time. The bridge will be closed only when it is time to remove it, and the replacement should be finished in 2012 or 2022.

There is some talk about a temporary replacement bridge, but the cost may be a prohibitive factor. The Vltava river is too wide at that point to accommodate a temporary bridge, Dolínek said.

There will be no architectural competition for the new Libeňský most. The city simply wants to select a contractor based on a maximum price and construction time.

Prague 7 Councilor Ondřej Mirovský (Green), responsible for transport, said that the issue of a substitute connection between Prague 7 and Prague 8 has not been solved, and it is critical. He called the demolition of the existing bridge the worst option.

Prague 7 Mayor Jan Čižinský (KDU-ČSL) opposes making a new bridge without an architectural competition.

“At least two years without any bridge is totally unacceptable. We tried a month in the winter [with a closed bridge] and I think it was enough for all people. … And destroying a valuable bridge and replacing it with a bridge without architectural competition is simply barbarity,” Čižinský said on Facebook.

Civic groups and architecture fans also oppose the demolition.

The Facebook group Libeňský most Nebourat, Nerozšiřovat (Don't Destroy or Widen the Libeň Bridge) also criticized the lack of transport alternatives and said ANO and ČSSD were rushing into the project without proper preparation.

The Facebook group Archwars, made of Czech architecture fans, called those in favor or demolishing the bridge barbarians, among other terms. They were critical of the replacement design as being bland and unoriginal, while the current bridge is a unique example of a modernist style. The page went on the remind people of the valuable landmarks destroyed in Prague in the 1970s. They also pointed out technical problems with trying to reuse the existing pillars.

The bridge has never been repaired since it opened 90 years ago. It was gradually loaded with more intensive traffic and was also damaged by floods in 2002.

The Ministry of Culture has declined to call the bridge a cultural monument. Conservationists from the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ) want to preserve the bridge, though.

The concrete bridge was designed by architects Pavel Janák and František Mencl, and it opened April 29, 1928, for the 10th anniversary of Czechoslovakia.

The bridge was originally called Masarykův most and was called Baxův most in 1939 and '40, and then Libeňský most from 1940 to '45, then Baxův most again from 1945 to '52. It was Stalingradský most from 1952 to '62 and then Libeňský most since then.

Almost one-fifth of 700 bridges in the capital city are in poor, very poor or emergency condition, according to a report submitted in January to City Hall’s Transportation Committee by the Technical Administration of Roadways (TSK).

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