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Building a Hybrid Highway System

Road Infrastructure as an Instrument of Economic Urbanization in Belgium

Michael Ryckewaert

This paper investigates the conception and construction of the Belgian highway network since 1945. It focuses on the formative decades of the 1950s and 1960s, when the network was designed and an important financing mechanism established (the 1955 Road Fund). A distinguishing characteristic in the construction of the network is the use of highways as a vector of urbanization for economic development purposes. Combining long-distance traffic with local access to adjoining services, these highways fulfill a twofold role defined at the conception of the network in 1951. Incorporating ring roads, expressways, regional highways, and a high density of exits into a transnational system, the Belgian network is a "hybrid" highway system.