In the past weeks, several junctions in Budapest were closed, and today a number of renovations have begun, resulting in major traffic congestion in many parts of the capital. Fidesz politicians have lambasted the mayor, claiming that Gergely Karácsony is responsible for the increased number of traffic jams in the city, as under his leadership the capital is carrying out necessary renovations at a bad pace. Although Karácsony admitted the problem indeed exists, he said that it was caused by the previous Fidesz-backed mayor who failed to undertake important investments and now they have to make up for it.
Those who want to use their cars in downtown Budapest can expect serious traffic jams in the coming weeks. Renovation work planned for the summer has begun, with several busy junctions closed for months. Revamp started last week on the embankment around the Parliament, the Chain Bridge will also be closed to traffic starting on Wednesday. Nyugati Railway Station will be closed for a month, and Blaha Lujza Square will also be renewed.
In reaction to the congestion generated by the closed roads, Budapest’s state secretary for the development of metropolitan agglomeration, criticized the capital’s leadership.
”We could finally be able to travel freely in Budapest if the Mayor and the city administration hadn’t timed the few renovations they finally embarked on after a long period of hesitation, all at once,” Balázs Fürjes writes.
The state secretary thinks the leadership of Budapest could have finished the works during the lockdown when life was already at a standstill but in this case, they should at least have waited until the end of the school summer break.
“One week! It would have made no difference to the projects, but it would have helped travelers a lot.”
In a later interview, the state secretary even noted that, according to some, these traffic jams are intentional, and the city leadership is preparing to implement a congestion fee.
Governing Fidesz communications director, István Hollik, also complained about the traffic jams on social media last week and shared a route plan showcasing how extremely slow it was for him to get around downtown.
”Budapest’s traffic has turned red. This is where the recklessness of Gergely Karácsony leads: constant traffic jams, impossible traffic. It’s getting faster to walk than to drive in [Buda]Pest; what will happen here next week?”, the politician asked.
Mayor Karácsony later replied to Hollik’s post, telling the Fidesz politician who complains that it takes 20 minutes to travel 1 kilometer to ”get out of the car and walk.”
István Hollik did not leave the mayor’s words unanswered:
“Can’t get to work on time? Can’t get to school to pick up your child? Stuck in traffic for hours? The mayor has given you the solution: get out of the car and walk!,” he wrote on Facebook.
Afterward, several articles in the pro-government media slammed Gergely Karácsony. Fidesz even launched a video campaign against the mayor claiming that although he is taken everywhere by a chauffeur is telling those stuck in a jam to get out of the car.
Later in a Facebook post, Karácsony noted that at rush hour, going a few hundred meters is probably faster on foot than by car in every major city in the world- not just in Budapest.
The mayor wrote that he had only suggested to István Hollik, in response to a journalist’s question, that he should perhaps get out of the car and walk. “In reaction, Fidesz flooded Facebook with the lie that I am saying this to the motorists of Budapest. This is of course not true,” the mayor wrote.
Gergely Karácsony, however, did acknowledge the increased number of traffic jams, asking the citizens of Budapest to be patient. According to Karácsony, the current difficulties are due to former (Fidesz backed) mayor István Tarlós, as during his leadership ”car traffic in the city increased one and a half times, but important investments were not carried out, which we now have to make up for.”
Budapesters are no strangers to summer traffic jams caused by renovation works, as every year there is major congestion in the capital, whoever the mayor is in charge.
Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Balogh/MTI