The police started clearing the Fechenheimer forest in Frankfurt am Main on Wednesday morning for the expansion of the A 66 motorway. A “large number of forces from all Hessian headquarters and the federal police” are on site and are asking those who are opposed to expansion in the forest to leave voluntarily, said the Frankfurt police headquarters.

Activists called the procedure a “further escalation level”, the federal highway company says it wants to start clearing during the day.

On Tuesday, the Hessian Administrative Court cleared the way for the clearing. In a non-contestable decision, he rejected the urgent application from an environmental protection group that had called for a ban on tree felling for species protection reasons.

Around 2.5 hectares of forest have to be cleared to close the gap on the A66 between Hanau and Frankfurt am Main. Planning permission has been in place for the sections in the Frankfurt Borsigallee area and the Riederwald Tunnel section for years. A planning approval decision has existed for 15 years. Around 1000 trees are to be felled, and the expansion is to be completed in 2031.

There have been protests against the construction project for years. Closing the gap is intended to connect the A66 with the A661. The area to be cleared is 230 meters long and up to 140 meters wide. Environmental activists have been occupying the forest since September 2021. Some of them live there in tree houses. The Frankfurt Administrative Court recently confirmed a general decree that prohibits entering the area of ​​the planned clearing.

The police announced in a statement on Wednesday morning that the officers on the mission would use a “de-escalating and communicative approach” against the activists – but would take people out of the forest if they refused to leave the area. “The police appeal to all protesters to leave the forest and structures voluntarily and peacefully and not to take irresponsible risks,” the statement said.

Activists confirmed the start of clearing work on Wednesday morning and announced continued resistance. “We feel compelled to defend the forest with our bodies,” the statement said.

The federal highway company responsible for the expansion called on Wednesday morning to respect the ban on entering the area to be cleared. The clearing work should start on Wednesday and be completed by February 28th “within the framework of the vegetation-free period”.

According to the police, they expect “massive traffic disruptions” as a result of their deployment. The A66 will be completely blocked between the Riederwald and Maintal-Dörnigheim junctions, and there will be temporary traffic closures in the area around the affected wooded area.