Massive bridge rebuild scheme to hit motorists

Crossley's Bridge in Blackpool, which is earmarked for demolition

Crossley's Bridge in Blackpool, which is earmarked for demolition

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Motorists face months of traffic hell as one of the busiest bridges in Blackpool is demolished and rebuilt.

Preparation work is already under way at Crossley’s bridge, in Plymouth Road, ahead of the rebuild, which will cost around £6.1million.

The work is needed because steelwork on the bridge, next to Layton railway station, is rotting and no longer fit for purpose, the council said.

Partial road closures will begin on Monday July 4 – with council chiefs promising two-way traffic will be maintained at all times.

It will then be fully closed to traffic and demolished from November 7 once the Illuminations are over.

The structure will be replaced by a heightened bridge so Network Rail can install overhead equipment to allow for the electrification of the train line between Blackpool North and Preston.

Contractors are already carrying out preparation work, while work to build a temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclists — sloped for wheelchair and pushchair access — will start next month.

The four-lane road, which links Bispham and Cleveleys to Blackpool, Wyre, and the M55, will then close to traffic the day after the Illuminations end, on Monday, November 7, while the bridge is flattened and rebuilt.

It is expected to be back open, though only partially, by next Easter — as long as we have mild winter weather.

While the work is carried out, motorists will face diversions probably via Devonshire Road and the Prom.

Tory MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Paul Maynard, said: “People will understandably be concerned about the impact on traffic flow from north to south, and this will have a major impact on both Devonshire Road and the Prom.

“It is imperative that the council plans these works to minimise disruption, and does not start other works on the Prom at the same time.”

Temporary traffic lights will be installed over the summer while work is carried out, including the moving of utility cables, but there will always be at least one lane both north and southbound open, the council said.

Blackpool Council said the corrosion on Plymouth Road bridge was significantly high, with the chloride based corrosion of the concrete at rated as being up to 6 per cent, far above the recommended level of 0.3%.

The level of corrosion is symptomatic of being exposed to the salty seaside air and would mean that the road would have to close permanently if it was not replaced, it said.

Coun Fred Jackson, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Municipal Assets said: “We’ve designed the first phase of this work so that it has the minimal impact possible on drivers using Plymouth Road bridge.

“Drivers will notice some disruption as lanes are closed but we’ve been keen to make sure that both directions of traffic are kept open.

“When the bridge is demolished, there will have to be some road closures and disruption, however we are making sure that work is completed in the winter months when the roads aren’t as busy. There is no escaping those road closures, as otherwise the bridge would have to be condemned and the road closed permanently, which is simply not an option.”

Town hall chiefs have also pledged to again look at how they can improve the flow of traffic at the Plymouth Road roundabout, a constant bugbear for motorists, and the lights at the junction of Bispham Road, Warbreck Hill Road, and Holyoake Avenue.

Last year, traffic lights at the roundabout were temporarily turned off while work was carried out there, with some motorists saying it eased congestion.

A one-year trial was later launched to study the flow.

Council officers now believe congestion at the roundabout is caused by traffic lights at the junction, and hope to ease jams by tweaking the signals, it is understood.

Crossley’s bridge opened in 1931, had an expected lifespan of 50 to 60 years, and got its name from Crossley Brothers Wood Merchants, based where B&Q is now, in Holyoake Avenue.

The work to replace it is part of an £11.365m scheme to repair 10 Blackpool bridges, funded by the Department for Transport (£5.565m), Blackpool Council (£2m), and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Fund (£3.8m).

Princess Street bridge, which runs under Seasiders Way close to Bloomfield Road, was closed over the winter while an estimated £1.55m of work was carried out, while the Squires Gate Lane bridge is set for £2.5m of work in the future.

Planned repair work on seven other bridges will not be as extensive, the council said.

Devonshire Road bridge is one of those earmarked for work, which will cause some disruption to traffic, but no date has yet been set and it will not take place at the same time as the work at Crossley’s bridge, a spokesman added.

When applying for funding from the Department for Transport, the council estimated the work at Crossley’s bridge — formally known as the Plymouth Road bridge — would cost around £5.1m.

The extra £1m cost, which relates to the heightening of the bridge, will be met by Network Rail, the council said.

“Detailed survey work has revealed the resort’s bridges are in a very poor condition, far worse than preliminary surveys revealed,” it said in documents.

“The need to act on bridge repair is now urgent. Without these bridges, the resort’s road network cannot operate with limited diversionary routes available.

“As most of these structures pass over railway lines, rail services might also be compromised.

“Plymouth Road bridge must be in a condition to accommodate overhead line equipment for the upcoming North Fylde Line rail electrification, thus is current condition is threatening the commencement of electric train services from May 2017.”

The electrification has suffered from well-publicised delays, and is now set for early 2018, according to Network Rail’s website.

Full details of the closure and diversions will be released later in the summer with Blackpool Council thanking people in advance for their patience while the work is completed.