TODAY finally sees work completed on the long-awaited Promenade improvements – but drivers will have to wait until next week before they are allowed on to the new carriageway.
For while contractors will officially hand over the completed scheme to Blackpool Council on schedule today, transport chiefs have to carry out a series of checks before they can re-open it to traffic.
Drivers have endured months of misery since the busy thoroughfare was closed last November to enable regeneration work to be carried out.
The road has been reduced to a single lane in both directions and a 20mph speed limit is being introduced on the stretch in front of the Tower.
John Donnellon, assistant director with responsibility for transport at Blackpool Council, said: “The improvement works to the Promenade have been completed on time and to budget.
“On Friday June 17 the contractors will leave the site and we will then check everything is working correctly before it’s reopened to traffic. This means the road will open early next week.
“We appreciate this closure has put pressure on the road network and we’d like to thank people for their patience.
“Hopefully both residents and visitors will appreciate the improvements which have been made.”
Tourism chiefs have welcomed the completion of the project.
Iain Hawkins, head of Merlin in Blackpool which operates the Tower and Madame Tussauds in the resort, said: “I can understand people’s frustration because it’s not good for our visitors or our guests when there are road closures.
“But we have to keep reminding ourselves it’s all for the greater good.
“There are other resorts in the UK which would die for the amount of regeneration and investment Blackpool is getting.”
North Pier owner Peter Sedgwick added: “We can’t wait for the Promenade to be open. It has lost us a lot of business being closed and we’re looking forward to the fact people will be able to drive to North Pier once more.
“People are not walking down the Prom on our side so anything which sees things getting back to normal is great.”
There will still be some delays on the Promenade because the stretch from the Metropole to Cocker Square where the tram track is being separated from the carriageway, will still be closed for some time to come.
Drivers have faced massive disruption since last November when the Promenade shut to southbound traffic between Talbot Square and New Bonny Street.
It has then been closed to all traffic since February to allow work to be carried out – including the laying of the Comedy Carpet, which will see the seafront inscribed with catchphrases from showmen, building of the sea defences and construction of a new wedding chapel.
The new headland is not due to be fully completed until the autumn.
The tramway has also been upgraded, and trams have been running again since Easter.