The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (UDC) has launched an initiative to build a tunnel at a cost estimated between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion francs beneath the western end of the lake in a bid to ease traffic jams in downtown Geneva.
While the proposal has gained little support from most other parties, MPs in the Geneva cantonal parliament on Thursday were unable to agree on a counter-proposal for another longer and more costly crossing at a wider part of the lake.
As a result, a referendum will be held by 2015 at the latest on the tunnel project, which would link Avenue de France on the north bank with the Port Noir, a marina on the south side of the lake.
The crossing would be in an area at the western end of the lake known locally as “la Rade”.
The UDC argues that the shorter crossing is a practical response to improve transportation in the centre of Geneva, given that there is a lack of support in Bern for a longer crossing further down the lake.
The cost of a wider crossing, with either a bridge or tunnel, has been estimated at 3.5 billion francs.
However, such a crossing could be eligible for federal funding if the federal highways office would decide in 2016 to include it in the registry of “national highways,” Yvan Slatkine, of the centre-right Liberal party, is quoted by Le Temps newspaper as telling parliament.
“To not support the counter-proposal,” he said, “is to back a solution (the UDC proposal) that resolves nothing.”
Critics of the shorter crossing say it will not help ease traffic downtown while it will impinge on a park.
Bur far right-wing and left wing parties killed off the idea of a counter-proposal for different reasons.
The right wingers believe the longer crossing has little chance of being supported while the left wingers said they opposed both projects for environmental and financial reasons.
Lawmakers have debated a road crossing of Lake Geneva for decades but the issue has gained new interest because of mounting concerns about gridlock on city roads.
Le pont du Mont Blanc, a bridge which crosses Lake Geneva just before it empties into the Rhône River, has become a pinch point clogging traffic moving from one side of the city to the other.
However, in 1996, voters rejected both a tunnel and a bridge across the lake as a transportation solution.