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Abandoned Motorway Extension – the end of the Berlin Westtangente

Sachsendamm and the Schöneberg Gasometer from the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in BerlinIt should have been a fast route to the centre of Berlin but on an abandoned motorway extension under Sachsendamm in Schöneberg trees and grass are thriving.

Autobahn Plan for Berlin from Flächennutzungsplan 65 for West Berlin, including the planned route of the Westtangente, abandoned motorway extension

Photo: Flächennutzungsplan 65 – Source: Der Tagesspiegel via

In the 1965 Flächennutzungsplan (Land-use plan) (FNP65), echoing Albert Speer’s vision for Welthauptstadt Germania, planners in West Berlin included proposals to build North, South, East and West tangents that were to come together around the historical centre of Berlin.  The FNP65 was based on plans from the 1950s, before the Berlin Wall was built, and still reflected a concept for Berlin as a whole.

The use of cars in and around the city was on the increase and as was normal for the time, plans to ease congestion and reduce journey times focused on providing bigger, faster roads.

While improving road conditions is still an important part of town planning, it is more common now to explore alternative and more innovative transport solutions.

The so-called Westtangente was to speed traffic from the Berliner Ring (the motorway that encircles Berlin) in Zehlendorf in the south through Steglitz, Schöneberg and Tiergarten all the way to Wedding in the north.

Abandoned Motorway Extension - Looking south along the abandoned Westtangente and the A103 in Berlin from Sachsendamm

Cars drive past the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente - on the Autobahn A103 near Sachsendamm in Berlin

The Schöneberg Gasometer and Sachsendamm from the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in Berlin

Street Art at the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in Berlin

The first section of the Westtangente, a 4km stretch from Birkbuschstraße in Steglitz to Sachsendamm in Schöneberg, now the A103, opened in 1968.

From the outset proposals for the new motorway were subject to protests from residents.

Partly in response to plans for the continuation of this road, which was to connect with the Tiergartentunnel at Reichpietschufer, the Bürger Initiative Westtangente was formed in March 1974 with the motto “Meine Leute gegen große Straßen!” (My people against large streets!).

Over the years, plans for the abandoned motorway extension have been shelved, revived, revised and dropped again.

Throughout, the BI Westtangente remained active.  It lobbied the senate and galvanised protesters in opposition to the new motorway, who even occupied Lenné-Dreieck, a triangular plot of land at Potsdamer Platz, for 5 weeks in 1988 until it was cleared by police.

The slip road from Sachsendamm onto the southbound A103 and the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in Berlin

The exit from the northbound A103 at Sachsendamm and the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in Berlin

Under Sachendamm looking south along the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in Berlin

Looking under the bridge formed by Sacshendamm passing over the Abandoned Motorway Extension - Westtangente in Berlin

When I visited the abandoned motorway extension in September 2014, a camp had been set up in the area under the road at Sachsendamm but this was not a protest but a group of people making the Berlin scrubland home.

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