Eastern Pyrenees : "Let’s hope that the RN116 development project does not end up in the closet"

Good news, nearly 73 million euros should be invested in securing the national road 116 between Ille-sur-Têt and Bourg-Madame. A project which, as it stands, does not seem to have the full support of elected officials from Conflent.

Étienne Guyot, Prefect of the Occitanie Region, Prefect of Haute-Garonne, Carole Delga, President of the Occitanie-Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region and Hermeline Malherbe, President of the Pyrénées-Orientales Department have signed a development protocol for the RN116 in the department, dated April 15, 2022.

A document which specifies the sums allocated to the project as well as the (very) broad lines of what this essential axis of the Pyrénées-Orientales could be.

Far from the four lanes we were hoping for

The mayors of the main villages concerned give their opinion on a working document which remains very technical and ultimately rather vague. Guy Cassoly, the mayor of Los Masos is rather reassured: “Normally we have the roundabout we were hoping for at the Eus inn. It’s good because this crossroads is a cut-throat. Which is a shame it is that our municipality has not been concerted because the 116 does not pass through our territory. However, it is more than a thousand of our citizens who flow directly onto the national”.

In Marquixanes (where a deviation to the north of the village is confirmed), the first city councilor Anne-Marie Canal wants to be a philosopher: “We take note of the decision of the authorities, there is a development of the territory which results from it. I know that “part of the population is against it. On our side, we asked that the initial project be modified so that the village benefits from a double entrance and we were heard”.

Patrick Lecroq, mayor of Villefranche-de-Conflent, is divided: “My regret comes from the fact that we are far from the four lanes we were hoping for up to Prades. On the other hand, we are very satisfied with the roundabout project which must connect the Rotjà valley. It corresponds to a real need for us, particularly in terms of security. Finally, the developer had proposed car parks but which did not correspond to Unesco criteria. We asked them to rework on this point”.

The same road as in the days of the stagecoaches

Jean Maury, elected in Ria, wants to be cautious: “This national road which crosses our village is a permanent concern. The safety of the residents is constantly questioned. It is an essential axis but which is no longer suitable. We have the same road as in the days of the stagecoaches except that today there are more than 15,000 cars that use it every day”. A tunnel under the old village had been considered twenty years ago but nothing like that today.

“The developer made us proposals, in particular on the west exit (Villefranche side, Editor’s note) but it’s DIY, us, what would have really interested us is a deviation. It will be better than nothing, hoping that it will come true and will not end up in the closet like so many other projects”. And the first magistrate of the town to “thank the former mayor of Prades who knows the file well and who certainly activated the project”.

The inhabitants of Vinça want to keep their exit on the RN116.

But it is surely on the side of Vinça and the surrounding villages that the planned developments are the most disputed. Indeed, the mayors of Espira-de-Conflent, Estoher, Finestret, Joch, Rigarda, Glorianes and therefore Vinça expressed their dissatisfaction during the investigation prior to the declaration of utility public. If they “approve the need to carry out development work”, the first city councilors ask for modifications to the project which has been submitted to them.

Elected officials fear that future works “make access to national 116 more difficult” for their constituents and above all “more dangerous”. “Prohibiting turning left in the direction of Prades at the RN116-RD13G crossroads (exit of Vinça located opposite the lake, Editor’s note) will involve the crossing of Vinça by several hundred vehicles using unsuitable streets with road insecurity and nuisances today. non-existent today.”

No continuity for the safety of cyclists

The mayors concerned ask: “the creation of a roundabout at the crossroads of the RN116-RD13G”. Regarding the crossroads located at the western exit (direction Marquixanes) the elected officials offer three options: “The feasibility study of a counter-lane along the RN116” or “the creation of another roundabout” or even “as it is impossible to achieve the counter-lane the roundabout, we ask that no development be carried out”.

The municipality of Rodès is also concerned about the developments that could be made at Vinça and which, depending on the option chosen, would divert part of the traffic towards the town center of its municipality.

“A project to watch closely”, according to Yves Delcor, mayor of Prades. “For my part, I had asked that these developments not in any way interfere with the farmers and businesses that are located along the 116. And the second point that bothers me is that we are in the process of implementing put in place a cycle route plan and there is unfortunately no continuity for the safety of cyclists in this project. There are a few secure passages, but dotted, and still large obstacles for bicycles that find themselves on the national road” . In short, a great announcement which remains to be finalized on the ground.

The Rodes roundabout has been long awaited.

The Rodes roundabout has been long awaited.

The EELV group offers other alternatives

The N116 development projects recently approved by the public authorities will cost the taxpayer 73 million euros, nearly 100 if the Marquixanes bypass becomes 2×2 lanes. In the name of “securing” the route. Without a penny for the slightest cycle path being part of the plans. To “make journey times more reliable”: another way of saying that it is a question of being able to drive faster, thanks to new overtaking slots.

Why go faster? To be able to more easily go skiing in the mountains for half a day? To make it easier for holidaymakers to travel to Andorra to buy alcohol and cigarettes there? So that Conflent ends up in the dormitory suburb of Perpignan? To complete making travel times by individual car preferable to the train which nevertheless serves the Têt valley?

However, other options are possible. The planned developments could anticipate and seek to encourage the emergence of new uses: for example by providing, at each crossing of the RN116 with a secondary road, the creation of car and bicycle parking spaces to facilitate carpooling, drop-off hitchhiker, bus stop. The road network between Ille and Prades would then be conducive to the flow of peaceful traffic, which would make the construction of the northern detour at Marquixanes unnecessary.

We no longer have a choice. The development policy dedicated to the individual car is incompatible with the climatic risk and the current and future fuel surge. We must devote public money to anticipating an adaptation of our uses and our territories to the energy sobriety that is coming, and that we risk suffering if we do not plan for it.


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