Project Oberdorfstrasse: the struggle comes to an end


The largest and most expensive structure in the history of Walchwil is probably also the most controversial. The connecting road, which’s inception was more than 40 years ago and whose implementation was repeatedly delayed, has indeed reached completion apart from a few minor details.
 
With a length of 1.26 kilometres and an approximate cost of 42 million Swiss Francs for both construction phases, it is the largest structure in the history of the municipality. The big opening party is scheduled for this Saturday during which the road will remain closed. Inhabitants can expect to find a brochure in their mailbox in the coming days.
 
Tobias Hürlimann the face of the proponents
 
One tends to associate extraordinary structures with individuals, oftentimes patrons or politicians. Such is the case in Walchwil. On 7 March 2010, about 60 percent of voters said yes to the loan for the second construction phase - the participation was extraordinarily high at 70 percent. The mayor Tobias Hürlimann (CVP), who had recently taken over the post from resigning Peter Wetter, became the face of those in favour in an extremely emotional vote.
 
Opponents argued with the burden of debts and printed symbolic IOUs. Like all, they could not anticipate that the municipality had golden tax years ahead. In 2011, the year of the Glencore IPO, Walchwil received more tax money from private individuals alone than the entire Oberdorfstrasse would cost.
 
Hürlimann is aware that these "external influences", as he calls them, played into the hands of the local council. But that's just one side of the story. Through a procedure that had proven successful in former projects, one was able to reach a maximum of efficiency: All rested on a five-member team, which included local construction head René Loosli (FDP), Tobias Hürlimann as well as three independent experts, including Horwer Engineer Kurt Margadant as client’s representative. As a result, not every decision had to be made by the entire local council.
 
Nevertheless, there were delays, mainly due to legal disputes. The road now opens three years later than planned. In retrospect, were there moments when Tobias Hürlimann thought that the road would never be built? "No," he says, "once the referendum went through, it was always clear to me that the implementation would follow." This certainty could be interpreted as arrogance. Ultimately however, it is in line with his conviction that a referendum is to be implemented - no matter how difficult the path ahead.
 
Distrust against the local council
 
That opponents of this project would instil distrust against him and the council is part of the job. This also applies to the spread of unfounded rumours. For example, at an information event shortly prior to the start of the second construction phase in 2015, some had questioned whether a valid building application had existed at all. "I do not take this personally, rather place the matter in the foreground," says Hürlimann. The negotiations with the landowners - especially those of the Hörndlirain and the Mundschöpfi - had been hard. Some residents did and do not like the idea that a thoroughfare affects their idyll and the value of their property. Twice there had been expropriation proceedings, both of which were never followed through as agreements were reached.
 
Oberdorfstrasse in time lapse
 
The difficult times are of the past. What counts now is the present, which according to Tobias Hürlimann promises a "significantly lower" bill for the second phase than the 29.5 million Swiss Francs that the voters had approved. Of these, "only" 45 percent will be charged against the municipal fund - the remainder will be paid by the owners of the areas Utigen, Rägeten, Lauihof and Büel, where new and presumably high-priced housing developments are to be created. The local planning revision in 2006 made this possible - the Oberdorfstrasse gains importance as it generates new revenue streams and becomes literally, worth it.
 
What brings the mayor who’s stepping down by year-end the most joy when he looks at the almost finished road? That you cannot see it - at least from afar: "I was concerned that you would see the road from the lake or from the other shore. But that's not the case, it blends in well with the environment." Among other things, this is due to the greenery along the road, which was progressively added during the ongoing construction. Even with such a large structure, the details still count. After all, time to deal with these things was in abundance.


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