Cllr Lynn Riley and I together with Kingsley Councillor Ralph Oultram have met with CWaC highway officers to discuss the Swing Bridge refurbishment and crucially what the road layout should be once the bridge is restored and reopened. We all know just how well the temporary road configuration has proved to be - well can it be replicated permanently?
The decision has been taken that the Swing Bridge, when re-opened, will have one lane in each direction. You may remember the old configuration had 3 lanes - 2 leading out of Frodsham to a traffic light controlled junction.
The 3 lane configuration was an unhappy compromise. The lanes were narrow, narrower than normal highway standard. We know from the repairs on the bridge that many cars and lorries lost wing mirrors on the bridge. The Canals and Rivers Trust are also looking to reduce the risk of bridge strike by vehicles - hence the decision to have 2 lanes only on the bridge.
So what should the configuration be on the Clifton Road / Sutton Weaver side?
There are three working models which are being worked on. The three of us have asked the officers to work up the schemes and model the traffic flows so a fully informed decision can be made.
Option 1 - traffic light controlled junction
This one appears to be the least favoured option. With the decision to reduce the bridge to 2 lanes of traffic there is every likelihood that the delays from this configuration will be worse than we were used to before;
Option 2 - a mini roundabout controlling the 3 legs on the Sutton Weaver side
The roundabout would have to be a painted dome allowing larger vehicles such as HGVs to over run it. There is barely enough space to put such a roundabout in the existing carriageway space. This option is a compromise as it gives every leg equal priority at the junction - even though the traffic flows are principally to and from Frodsham to the M56. There is also a significant concern that the road from Sutton Weaver across the bridge would literally be a 'straight-on' road - not the best configuration to approach a roundabout.
Option 3 - an as is option - replicating the temporary configuration permanently
We know this configuration works and works well. There is also space to move this configuration to the bridge from the temporary road works. However this configuration too is a compromise as there is no 'straight-on' option from Frodsham to Sutton Weaver. Are we prepared to accept this compromise for what is likely to be the most free flowing option?
When the preparatory work is done we intend to have the results published so everyone can have a think and have their say.
Incidentally the bridge works are on schedule to finish in the summer. The Canals and Rivers Trust is however wrestling with unexpected repairs to the bridge pontoon - so there is some uncertainty as to when the bridge works will be fully finished. That said with the temporary road configuration working so well none of us are pressurising CWaC or the Canals and Rivers Trust to finish early!
CWaC highway officers tell us that there won't be time to put the final road configuration at the time of the bridge re-opening - so do expect to have to navigate through coned lanes. This may mean there is an opportunity to test out a layout before deciding on a permanent layout.