ROAD improvements that could unlock thousands of new jobs have been prioritised in a £170m move, ministers have announced.
Transport minister Mike Penning has said work will start now to prepare the case for upgrades to the Coast Road’s Silverlink junction.
This means that when his department is handed its next funding allocation in 2015, a share of between £110m and £170m will be handed over to highways bosses for use on the road.
The news has been welcomed by North Tyneside elected mayor Linda Arkley, who has lobbied strongly for improvements to the A19/A1058 Coast Road junction.
Improvements to the busy junction have long been called for, with businesses and members of the Government-backed North East local enterprise partnership also listing it as one of the region’s critical infrastructure needs.
The plans became more urgent when the opening of the second Tyne Tunnel increased traffic in the area.
The A19 – bringing traffic up to the junction – handles 38,000 vehicles per day. The A1058 from Newcastle to the coast, which goes above the A19, accommodates 52,000 vehicles per day.
Development work on the scheme will focus on designing and consulting on proposals.
Mrs Arkley said she was “absolutely delighted” at the multi-million-pound investment package.
“I have been on at them for this for long time, it’s good to see Mike got the message,” she said. “We have so many opportunities for growing this area through the Enterprise Zone designation along the North Bank of the Tyne and our many business sites across the borough, so we need to know that congestion is not going to be an obstacle to that.”
The North East Chamber of Commerce has also campaigned hard for the upgrade cash. Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham, said the news was “a real victory for us and our partners who campaigned alongside us”.
He added: “It is great news for the region as it will ease congestion and complement the recent Tyne Tunnel upgrade on this important strategic route for both commuters and businesses. If the Government is serious about rebalancing the economy, future investment should be prioritised for schemes just like this to enable the North East to increase its contribution to UK Plc.
“Hopefully, other regional infrastructure priorities such as the essential upgrade of the Western Bypass will receive similar appraisal in the future.”
The cash is one of few big infrastructure projects to get the go-ahead regionally, as many projects were scrapped due to spending constraints when the coalition Government was formed.
Earlier announcements from the Department for Transport include providing £21m towards the Morpeth Northern Bypass, officially known as the South East Northumberland strategic link road. A further £82.5m will help pay for an iconic new bridge over the River Wear in Sunderland. It will be the tallest in England and Wales, with the highest tower measuring 187m.
Roads minister Mr Penning said: “We are committed to tackling congestion, keeping traffic moving and supporting the UK economy, putting in money where it’s most needed and where the public will get a good return on investment.
“We have already announced around £3bn of investment to complete work on Highways Agency major road projects under construction and to allow work to start before March 2015 on 20 much-needed road improvement schemes.”
We are committed to tackling congestion, keeping traffic moving and supporting the UK economy