Wandering through the woods and valleys between Gemünden am Main and Bad Brückenau in der Rhön, one can find motorway structures which do not carry traffic, but high trees and dense vegetation.
A piece of European traffic history is hidden here: ,Section 46’. It is a 70 km long historical predecessor of today’s A7 (Flensburg – Füssen) between Fulda and Würzburg.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the few motorists had to share the roads with pedestrians and carts. Also, these roads were often in a very poor condition. Unpaved tracks, gravel roads, pot holes and dirt everywhere often made motoring a struggle.
It is not known who first came up with the idea of a road only for motorised traffic, but in 1909, the Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungsstrasse GmbH, abbreviated AVUS (Automobile Traffic and Training Road) for road enthousiasts was founded in Berlin. In 1913 construction of the road started. A year later it had to be abandoned because of World War I. In 1921 the ‚AVUS’, now part of the A115, could finally be opened to traffic.
In Italy the Lakes Motorway between Milan and Varese was opened in 1924. The road built by engineer Piero Puricelli attracted attention among road builders in all motorised countries.
One of the associations which were founded for the construction of roads for motorised traffic in Germany after World War I was the ‚HAFRABA’. It made concrete plans for a motorway from Hamburg via Frankfurt to Basel.
In those days, motorway plans from single sections to European networks were mainly based on existing traffic links. They joined together capitals, harbours, large urban areas and tourist destinations.
The A7 between Hamburg and the Hattenbacher Dreieck (junction) is now part of the realised HAFRABA line.
However, it was not built by the ‚HAFRABA’, but by the ‚Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung der Reichsautobahnen’, abbreviated GEZUVOR (Society for the preparation of Reichs motorways), and by the ‚Reichsautobahn Company’. In order to gain access to the documents of the ‚HAFRABA’ and other associations, the authorities urged these associations to dissolve themselves.
Thus they had complete plans of the ‚HAFRABA’ at their disposal and therefore they could start construction of motorways only a few months after taking over power.
In the terminology of the era, motorway stretches were called ‚Strecke’ (Section). The section between the Hattenbacher junction and Würzburg was named ‚Strecke 46’.
Construction of the subsection Bad Brückenau – Würzburg was started in 1937. 47 structures which still exist today were completed, and further parts of the embankment including junctions, construction ramps and rest areas. Only the road surface was missing.
After World War II began, construction on Section 46 ended in 1940.
All motorway construction in Germany was stopped in 1943 because of the war. A total of 3893 km of motorways were completed, and construction of almost the same length had started. In some parts of Central Europe remnants of these works can still be found.
From 1948 onwards it was considered to complete Section 46.
Between the Hattenbacher junction and Fulda, for the most part it was possible to use the route and structures from before the war. South of Fulda, however, the former alignment with all of its structures and embankments was abandoned completely.
On the one hand, this was the result of experience gained during 10 years of motorway construction. On the other hand, in the meantime new basic construction principles had been established.
Thus in the years 1960/61 federal transport minister Seebohm settled the current alignment of the A7.
The ruins of Section 46 between Gemünden and Bad Brückenau were taken over by woods again. They were lost in oblivion.
Section 46 became ‚The forgotten motorway’.
Today it is Germany’s longest historical motorway ruin. Section 46 shows important stages of the development from the early days of motorway construction. Because of this fact and its unique condition it was putunder monumental protection, which is probably unique in the world.
The ‚Arbeitsgemeinschaft Autobahngeschichte (AGAB)’ (motorway history working group) offers guided tours of Section 46 several times a year.