A citizen dialogue on the biological and environmental effects of engine exhaust from the Einhorn Tunnel. The results of the consultation helped inform the decision not to install air filters.
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Problems and Purpose
The Einhorn Tunnel in the City of Schwäbisch Gmünd was built to relieve inner city traffic with no prior citizen consultation. When the tunnel opened in 2013, fear quickly spread among nearby residents about the health and environmental impacts of the increase in vehicular traffic. Residents contacted government authorities demanding the installation of tunnel filters. Experts in health and technical matters contested the validity of residents' fears and disagreed with the need for filters. In order to come to a reasoned, collaborative decision, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany (BMBF) funded and commissioned a citizen dialogue and invited stakeholders on both sides of the argument.
Background History and Context
The 2,2 km long "Einhorn-Tunnel" was built as a way to relieve the city of traffic conjestion from the B29 (A-Road or federal highway). When built, residents quickly noticed that the exhaust gases of the traffic in the tunnel were designed to escape through a vent stack into the air. Despite expert evaluation, residents feared that the release of these gases in such quantities was harmful to their health and the environment and so demanded the city retroactively fit the tunnel with exhaust filters.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Organising entities include the Fraunhofer Institut UMSICHT, the Institut für Organisationskommunikaiton (IFOK GmbH) and the Institute for Advaned Studies in the Humanities (KWI). The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) (BMBF).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Interested/active citizens (mostly from the initiative "Pro Tunnelfilter") of the region were recuited together with experts from various backgrounds (technical, health, administration and politics). A "Round Table" made up of technical consultants and members of the pro-tunnel filter citizen initiative was established to make the final decisions.
Methods and Tools Used
The dialogue process took the form of four half-day round table deliberations among a select group of civil society representatives (who supported the filters) and technical expert/advisors who did not believe the tunnel exhaust constituted enough risk to require retroactive filter installation. Round table discussions were open to public spectators.
Open town meetings took place after each meeting of the round table to fill in the public on thetopics discussed and decisions made.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
During six months four separate events took place to collaborate, collect results, discuss them and give advise.
Citizen dialog process: Four half-day meetings took place. Core to the decision-making process was the "Round Table", made up of representatives of the citizen initiative "Pro Tunnelfilter" as well as technical representatives from instituions linked to the erection/building of the vent stack for the tunnel. Following every meeting of the round table, an open town meeting was held to inform the public. The public was also allowed to attend each Round Table deliberation as spectators.
During the process, researchers from the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) helped to identify the conflict structures and to use network-analytics to create visualize and map the pros and cons.Researchers also assessed the participatory quality of the dialogue to document the mpact on the level of information and the opinions of the participants.
The final decisions were made by the roundtable group based on the collected results of the preceding discussions and the conflict map generated by the KWI researchers. At the end of the process, a flyer informed citizens in the region about the process, the results, and the recommendations. A press conference was also held to inform the public about the decisions.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through dialogue, opposing groups worked together to reach a mutual understanding of the benefits and downsides of the tunnel as it was constructed. In the end, residents who feared the health and environmental hazards of tunnel came to understand that the Einhorn-Tunnel actually relieves air pollutantion especially in the valley area by lessening inner city traffic congestion. The tunnel filter would be costly and would only reduce the pollution by 0.01% so was deemed unnecessary.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The dialogue can be considered as an overall successful participation process. The conflict parties and participants have been convinced by the scientific results from the experts. The longstanding conflict seems to be ended with this dialogue. The tunnel filters are not necessary for the air quality and the region and would not make a big differance in the amount of pollutants/exhaust gases. But which lessons learned can be used or are from interest for other similar cases/problems or processes?
1. Start earlier with an participatory process. Could reduce the conclift between the parties.
2. Selection of participants: if a "round table" got established, make sure that this round table is taking part in the process of descision making and deliberation. Which means let the round table participate in the selection of experts, organisers, moderators and evaluators for the overall participatory process or citizen dialogue. This would lead to more trust and acceptance.
3. More and better space for deciscion-making and composition-making. Especially for the funded round table and the citizens. More citizens may participated if the discussion was not only based on the fact, that tunnel filters are not needed or necessary (scientifically).
4. A guaranteed discussion with the responsible political actors (on state or national level) about the results of the tunnel-filter dialogue. And consideration of the results from the not lawful tunnel diualogue.
5. Balanced composition of the participants: make sure that committees like a round table are balanced in their composition to guarantee that all interests and positions are represented. Especially from the affected locals in the region/are, but also from outside the region/area - supra-regional. Also participants/decison-makers (politicians) from the state and national level should be considered and included. Like state and national ministries for traffic and infrastructure for example.
6. Importance of an professional planning and execution of the participatory process. Neutral participants (like moderators) can play a crucial role in the process.
7. Good communication: Involve the public as soon as possible and provide enough information about and during the whole process. Also inform about opinion-changes and the learning process. Important is to provide all these information in an understandable language. Use of different information channels.
8. Clarify targets and communicate them: The contracting authority for the participatory process should clarify the aims with the involved participants and communicate them. Questions: Should the citizens just be informed or should they be convinced by something? Should the citizens consult the administration/politics or are they directly involved in the decision-making?
Final report (long version): http://www.schwaebisch-gmuend.de/brcms/pdf/Endbericht_Tunneldialog_final...
Final report (short version): https://www.umsicht.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/umsicht/de/dokumente/press...
Project homepage KWI: http://www.kwi-nrw.de/home/projekt-87.html
Project webpage City Schwäbisch Gmünd: https://web.archive.org/web/20180809052535/https://www.schwaebisch-gmuen...
Lead image: Schwäbisch Gmünd https://goo.gl/uMK5dj