Berlin - Berlin Tuesday approved plans to extend the M10 tram across Oberbaumbrücke and through Görlitzer Park to connect Friedrichshain and Neukölln. The BVG will now take over planning for the extension, which would debut in 2028. The federal government may also be tapped for help funding the new route.

The extension would officially run from the tram's current terminus at the Warschauer Straße S- and U-Bahn station to Hermannplatz. An economic study said the benefits of the extension would outweigh the costs by a factor of 2.87 but the plans devised by mobility consultancy Verkehrs-Consult Dresden Berlin (VCDB) to save time by routing the streetcar through Görlitzer Park have already sparked criticism. Tracks would only exacerbate the problem of an already heavily overused Kreuzberg green space, residents and politicians say.

"An affront," said parliamentarian Pascal Meiser (Die Linke).

The extension would first move south from Warschauer Straße across Oberbaumbrücke, where planners recommend separating the tracks from other traffic. This would reduce the recently widened bike lanes on the popular bridge but planners pledged "to keep incursions into bicycle traffic as low as possible" during the rest of the new route.

Cheapest, shortest version

As it crosses underneath the elevated U-Bahn, the road would have to be lowered to allow the tram to cross onto Falckensteinstraße and then on to Görli. The M10 would then traverse Görlitzer Park on a special track that would be planted with grass. Bicycle lanes would also be created on both sides with a sidewalk planned on the east side. The exact design will be worked out during citizen workshops.

The route then leads via Glogauer Straße to the Landwehrkanal. Thielenbrücke will probably have to be rebuilt so that it can be crossed by the tramline. Via Pannierstraße, the route continues to Sonnenallee, which will receive a separate rail track that will also be used by buses. The final stop is located in the northern area of Hermannplatz in Urbanstraße, according to the experts from VCDB.

Several routes were considered as part of the planning for the current route, which is 2.9km, including two that bypassed the park. However, the proposed version would have the highest number of projected riders and, at €62m, requires the lowest investment. The versions that bypassed the park could cost as much as €71.6m, VCDB said.

The proposed version would also impact motor vehicle traffic the least. The versions that circumnavigated the park would require eliminating up to 509 parking spaces instead of the planned 256.

"The [government] decision is long overdue and there is only one sensible route. I'd be happy if the discussion now moved on to the question of design," Tom Gerlich, of passenger association IGEB, tweeted after the plans were first unveiled.

Lobbyists for pedestrians agree

"If heavy bike traffic on asphalt paths is acceptable in Görlitzer Park, then a streetcar on grass tracks certainly is," Roland Stimpel, spokesman for the German Association of Pedestrian Traffic (FUSS), said on Tuesday. "It can travel the 200m through the park slowly, and there would be a stop. The park would then become easily accessible for people with strollers or wheelchairs, and from densely populated parts of Friedrichshain and Neukölln."

Die Linke politician Meiser disagrees and says the decision could hold up the needed expansion of Berlin's tram network.

"Two tracks crossing the park with the corresponding safety barriers would permanently damage one of the few contiguous green recreational areas in Kreuzberg," he said. "The Green-led transport department must finally give up its resistance to bypassing Görlitzer Park. If the transport department and BVG stick to the park crossing, massive protests are already foreseeable."

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