The project team is aiming to make the changes to reduce the impact of the scheme on residents, to save £30m and to deliver design improvements and flexibility along the route of the new six-lane toll bridge over the Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes.
Responses to the Mersey Gateway Project team’s recent consultation on the plans showed broad support for the proposed modifications. More than 200 people attended exhibitions in Runcorn and Widnes. According to the project team, comments received showed that:
- 75% of respondents who commented felt the design modifications proposed for Widnes had a positive or neutral impact,
- 71% of respondents who commented felt that the alternative designs for the new bridge and along the route that could improve value for money had a positive or neutral impact, and
- 78% of respondents who commented felt that the design modifications proposed along the Central Expressway in Runcorn had a positive or neutral impact, and
- 72% of respondents who commented on the issue supported the principle of open road tolling.
Project director Steve Nicholson said: “We are pleased that the feedback we have received endorses our decision to make these changes to the plans, and we believe the detailed proposals that are now with the council will save money and improve the plans as we move forward.”
The proposed modifications to the road layouts on either side of the river are designed to reduce projected traffic levels on local routes around Halton Brow in Runcorn, and remove the need for large toll plazas in Widnes.
The open road tolling system will mean using camera technology to record vehicle recognition details for the collection of tolls for crossing both the new bridge and the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
Drivers will still be charged for crossing the river, but the toll plazas that were to have been developed in Widnes will not be built, and traffic will be more free-flowing.
On the Runcorn side of the river the proposed modifications have largely been developed as a result of listening to previous concerns from local residents and councillors. The project team has adjusted the plans for the slip roads at either side of Halton Brow to reduce projected peak time traffic levels on the slip road alongside Warrington Road by up to 60% and to improve access to facilities at Halton Lea.
The applications also cover possible design modifications for the new bridge. The route of the new crossing is not being changed but the project team would like to increase the design flexibility available to whichever contractor that ends up building it. (Today is the deadline for contractors to submit pre-qualification documents, with a shortlist being picked in Febnruary 2012.)
The design modifications to the main bridge under consideration would not accommodate a future light rail scheme and if these were adopted the council would use the Silver Jubilee Bridge, rather than the new bridge, for future public transport services, including any future light rail proposals.