Bridge Road widening scheme design approved

Bridge Road cantilever structure - computer image

Posted on: 11 November 2015

Designs for a £13.45 million scheme to widen and improve one of Exeter’s busiest commuter routes have been approved by Devon County Council.

The County Council’s Cabinet today (Wednesday 11 November) backed the scheme to widen Bridge Road to two continuous outbound lanes between Countess Wear roundabout and Matford roundabout.

Bridge Road is a vital connecting route to the city centre, Sowton and Marsh Barton industrial estates, as well as linking to the Exe Estuary Trail. The route currently has the only single lane of the outer ring road between Middlemoor and the approach to Chudleigh Road near the A30, creating a bottleneck on the A379 corridor.

With around 30,000 vehicles using the road each day, the route suffers from tailbacks at peak times which block the Countess Wear junction and its approach routes.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth, said: “This scheme is vital to the continued growth in Exeter. Upgrading this route will reduce traffic queuing at the Countess Wear roundabout which will help keep traffic moving, reduce delays and ensure reliable journey times – all of which is key to support the housing and employment development planned in and around the city. The improvements will also improve sustainable travel options.”

Councillor Andy Hannan, Devon County Councillor for Priory and St Leonard’s, said: “I welcome this development and hope that it will have a positive impact on Countess Wear roundabout, particularly on the approach from Topsham which currently gets backed up in the morning rush hour encouraging motorists to use rat runs through the Glasshouse Lane estate. Who knows, if it’s successful we might not need to have an extension to the bus lane that uses the service road running alongside Topsham Road after all. In any case, levels of air and noise pollution following the road widening need to be carefully monitored and mitigating measures taken should there be problems.”

Around £2 million of the project costs have already been invested in the scheme design and on installing concrete piled foundations in the piers of the historic Grade II Listed Countess Wear Bridge, to support a new cantilevered cycleway and walkway. This will provide the space needed on the road over the bridge to be widened to two lanes in both directions, while also improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

The aim is for the scheme contract to be awarded in January 2016.

More information is available here.

6 comments on “Bridge Road widening scheme design approved

  1. Charlie Simpson says:

    We are local Countess Wear residents.
    We would welcome the long awaited works to improve traffic flow over the River Exe and the Swing-bridge, however, it is galling to see what appears to be minimum work taking place for all these works over such a long time-frame for what is meant to be ‘urgently needed improvements’. The whole works seem to be on ‘tick-over’, while queues of frustrated motorists crawl by watching the inactivity.
    I share the previous post’s opinion of having underpasses for the pedestrian and cycle crossings – I can’t believe that within the £13.45 million budget this would not be feasible. I’m no civil engineer or council budget number cruncher however, just a local resident with sufficient observational common sense.

    • Hi Charlie, Thanks for the comment. As with any construction project, we have had to strike a balance on the Bridge Road scheme between impact on the travelling public and constraints on the contractor. Giving the contractor more space would allow them to complete works in more areas at the same time, and therefore finish the job in a shorter time. For instance, if the road was completely closed for a number of months, the work would be completed more quickly.
      However, the County Council was keen to minimise disruption to the travelling public so we have stipulated to the contractor that two lanes must be kept open to vehicles for most of the contract duration which only leaves small areas available for the contractor to work at any time.
      Work in each area also has to follow a sequence so, for instance, on Countess Wear Bridge, all the utility diversions have to be completed before kerbing and surfacing can be carried out. A lot of the initial work, such as utility diversions, environmental work and creating an access below Countess Wear Flood Relief Bridge for its partial demolition and rebuilding are not highly visible from the road but they are important early stages of the project.
      The underpass question is addressed in our “frequently asked questions” section of our Bridge Road website here

  2. Mark says:

    Is it possible for the plans of the proposed scheme to be published on this page? or at least a link to them?

  3. c dewymmer says:

    the major hold-up are the 4 pedestrian crossings as they are very busy and popular with cyclists , would it not be possible to have any of these as an underpass ? especially the swing bridge people sometimes feel unsafe as there are some lunatic drivers about .
    and would it not be possible to scrap the swing bridge for a standard bridge it could be higher d to allow pedestrian footpath underneath thereby promoting the walks, it must cost an arm and a leg for the maintenance and upkeep for the sake of a couple of bots a year , nice saving just there .
    thank you

    • HI. An underpass has been considered in regard to the pedestrian and cycle crossing near the Swing Bridge. Underpasses require 3m headroom, have to be at least 1m below the carriageway to avoid services and therefore would have ramps leading into them at least 60m long on each side. Unfortunately we do not have the available space to construct this.

      However it is recognised that the crossings do have some impact on vehicular flows, and an alternative solution to the crossings may be considered in the future if funding becomes available. You mention safety and that will be a prime consideration, including personal safety issues which can be perceived by some underpass users.

      A standard bridge would need to be higher as you have noted. The factor determining the required height would not just be pedestrians and cyclists, but the type of craft that use the Exeter Canal. The Canal is operated by Exeter City Council and therefore ECC are in control of the vessels that use it. The Canal’s use as a navigable waterway would lead to a significantly greater design height for a bridge than just allowing for pedestrians/cyclists. There are design standards for gradients of roads, and a higher bridge would lead to long approach embankments leading up to the bridge from both directions. Whilst this may well produce some savings in annual operation costs, the upfront construction costs of a new bridge and approaches would far exceed the available budget for the current scheme. These larger embankments would also extend much further out into the adjacent land, which on the downstream side of Bridge Road, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) of European importance, hence it would be very difficult to get Natural England’s support for this option.


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