In the Camargue, a controversial project for a bridge over the Rhône

Until then, it was nicknamed “the Arlésienne” here. In Salin-de-Giraud (Bouches-du-Rhône), the idea of ​​seeing a bridge rise above the Grand Rhône – the most imposing of the two arms of the river – and replace the Barcarin ferry, whose rotations linking the hamlet, its wild beaches, its salt marshes and its 2,200 inhabitants, to the east of the department, was utopian. “There have been so many aborted projects that even today, there are not many salt workers to really believe in them”, recognizes Eva Cardini. Great-granddaughter of a salt worker, born in this end of the Camargue 59 years ago, this energetic chemical technician was elected in 2020 on the unlabeled list (SE) of the mayor of Arles, Patrick de Carolis. And now is deputy in charge of his village, planted 40 kilometers from the center of the town of Arles.

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Provençal accent, chic outfit, high verb, Eva Cardini has always campaigned for the bridge … “But, for the first time, there is political unanimity”, she enthuses. The situation is, in fact, unprecedented. The president of the departmental council of Bouches-du-Rhône, Martine Vassal (Les Républicains), validated the idea in 2017. The new mayor of Arles supports it. Just like the two departmental councilors, Mandy Graillon and Martial Alvarez (SE), elected in June on a program that made the bridge a priority. Friday, October 29, the department, project manager of the file under its road skills, sent three of its specialists to Salin-de-Giraud to answer the questions of the population.

The phase is not yet that of the public inquiry, scheduled for 2024. Rather a consultation, open for fifteen days, to validate the preliminary studies. Environmental and logistical analyzes, traffic projections supposed to allow elected officials to choose, before the end of 2021, the type of bridge and the preferential route that will be studied. With the objective of a declaration of public utility for 2024 and an opening before 2030.

“Deep in the world”

In Salin, the annexed town hall occupies the old circle where the workers of the Solvay factory, one of the historic employers of the village, met with the Salins du Midi. Explanatory panels summarize some of the issues in the file. For its promoters, the bridge must “Facilitate access to jobs in Fos and Marseille”, “maintain and diversify jobs in Salin-de-Giraud”, “improve safety in the event of a flood”… Above all, it must replace a ferry service which provokes, we read, “Strong dissatisfaction”. If it operates daily around 22 hours a day, it is said to be subject to “Unexpected stops”, breakdowns, supply problems, social movements. And it cannot navigate when the flow of the Rhône exceeds 6000 m3/ second, which sailors say happens four or five times a year.

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In the Camargue, a controversial project for a bridge over the Rhône