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The construction of the Flexen Road

125 YEARS OF FLEXEN ROAD | 1897 - 2022

With the opening of the Arlberg Railway in 1884, the traffic volume over the Flexen Pass increased considerably. The Tannberg communities' trade, Lech above all, increasingly shifted to the south. The avalanche events of 1886 and 1891 contributed significantly to the calls for an avalanche-proof access road. In 1892, the Lech and Warth communities submitted a joint request to the Province of Vorarlberg Road Committee asking for the construction of a safe road. A key promoter of the project was the then mayor of Lech, Sebastian Walch (1854 – 1917). This marked the beginning of the preliminary work on the construction of an "artificial road". The provincial governor Adolf Rhomberg (1851 – 1921) commissioned the South Tyrolean Paul Ilmer (1850 – 1912), a civil engineer, who was employed as the county chief engineer.

Gazette for the districts of Bludenz and Montafon, August 10, 1895
Johann Bertolini 1896 auf der Baustelle (links auf der Leiter), Bild: Familie Bertolini
Johann Bertolini 1896 on the building site (on the left on the ladder), picture: Bertolini family

After the completion of the planning work in the summer of 1895, the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Flexen Road took place on 3 August of that year. The work was supervised by the Provincial Building Officer, Chief Engineer Paul Ilmer and the Chief Building Officer, August Ritt (1852 – 1934), who was the building department head in the imperial and royal governor's office in Innsbruck. The master builder Johann (Giovanni) Bertolini, from Trentino, was entrusted with the implementation.

The construction work carried out in such difficult terrain could only be described as a technical masterpiece. Also remarkable is the fact that with about 200 employees only one fatal accident was recorded. One of the men involved in the construction was the carrier Franz Josef Matthies, known as "Avalanche Franz Josef". In his notebook, he meticulousy recorded all the transports he made on behalf of master builder Johann Bertolini.