Construction of first Belgian highway started exactly 85 years ago

Minister of Public Works Hendrik De Man took the decision in 1935 to build the first Belgian highway. The old road to Brussels could not handle the amount of traffic, and cars were forced to drive through the city centres of Aalst, Ghent and Bruges to reach Ostend.

On April 6 1937, De Man’s successor Jean-Joseph Merlot planted the first spade for the first section of the Brussels-Ostend highway, known today as the E40. But the construction took more than 19 years to complete. This was mostly due to the start of the Second World War and general scepticism about the success of highways. On the 21st of April 1956, King Baudouin inaugurated the road between Brussels and Ostend. 

The scepticism about highways disappeared over the years: today, Belgium has the most kilometers of highway per km² of all EU member states. The Belgian section is now part of the longest highway in Europe, an 8000 km long road spanning from Calais in France to Kazachstan.


© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK - Illustration picture shows the E40 A3 highway in Kortenberg, Thursday 24 September 2020.

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