The final piece of funding for a new road linking North West Preston to the M55 motorway has been announced.
The Department for Transport has committed £31m to the so-called Preston Western Distributor scheme, which will see the construction of a two-and-a-half-mile dual carriageway connecting the A583 at Riversway to a new junction on the M55 at Bartle.
READ MORE >>> This is how the new Preston-M55 link road will look
Two other adjoining routes will also be built - the two-mile East-West link road, on which work is already underway, running from Lightfoot Lane to the Preston Western Distributor itself near the Saddle Inn pub; and the half-mile Cottam link road between Cottam Way and the new dual carriageway.
The government funding - £6m more than expected - will make up 16 percent of the £185m price tag for the project - which has rocketed from an initial estimate of £104m when plans were first drawn up. An aqueduct will have to be re-routed to accommodate the new road.
The Lancashire Growth Deal, a pot of money obtained from the government for infrastructure projects, will add £58m to the pot, but the lion's share of the sum – just over £100m – will be supplied by the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal and is the biggest of the five transport projects which have been financed since the deal was struck in 2013.
Even before final confirmation of the government's contribution, construction was already planned to begin before the end of the year - with a scheduled opening date of March 2023. Preparatory work is currently underway on the site.
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver, said the authority was "delighted" that all of the necessary funding had now been secured.
"This is a major new road scheme that will significantly improve access around the city, as well as creating a new connection onto the national motorway network.
"[It] will open up new business opportunities, improve access to existing and proposed housing sites and reduce congestion on other parts of the network by providing more options for how people can get around."
The Preston Western Distributor is regarded as key to delivering around 5,300 new homes in the North West Preston masterplan area in the 20 years up to the mid-2030s.
The scheme has already cleared two legal hurdles. A challenge from a landowner who wanted to secure roundabout access to a proposed garden village on his part of the masterplan plot was dropped in March and the following month approval was given to the compulsory purchase orders needed to acquire the necessary land for the scheme.
A meeting of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership's (LEP) transport committee back in June heard that the route is forecast to boost the Lancashire economy by £108m over the next 60 years through the number of jobs which will be indirectly created by the increased capacity of the road network.
An independent report commissioned by the LEP to assess the business case rated the project as “high value for money” and calculated that the overall benefits of the scheme could top £290m – largely as a result of shorter journey times.
Jim Carter, chair of the City Deal, said: "We aim to grow the economy by helping people to get around, as well as supporting new economic growth and encouraging new businesses to come to Lancashire.
"These new roads will connect with sites for new homes, which are needed as we grow our economy and new jobs are created. It's important for the public and private sectors to work together to unlock the potential of the area for people who live and work here."
Councillor Peter Moss, deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and regulation at Preston City Council, said of the government announcement: “This is fantastic for Preston and will be welcome news to commuters travelling in and around the region.
“Taking the pressure off the current road network is a priority for the infrastructure projects of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal and should enable smoother and shorter journey times for everyone.”