What will be the most comprehensive programme of work to upgrade the Island network of road bridges and retaining walls is about to get underway.
Between April and the end of August, around 60 structures will be improved by Island Roads as part of the Highways PFI.
These projects vary from high profile work, such as replacing the expansion joints on Medina Bridge on the dual carriageway at Newport, to work on the many lesser-known bridges dotted across the Island.
Under the PFI, Island Roads has a duty to upgrade and/or maintain over 850 structures – on the Island that means retaining walls, road bridges and pedestrians footbridges. The structures due for improving this summer include those in most need of attention.
In many cases, the work is of relatively minor nature but is necessary to ensure these structures are maintained to the required standards
Ian Hodson, Island Roads Structures Manager, “Often people will drive past these structures without even noticing them. Nevertheless they need to meet the required standards.”
Though some notable structures work has already been undertaken – Wootton Bridge and Coppins Bridge are two such examples – work is now ramping-up following a period of intensive inspections and assessments. This work has enabled the current summer programme to be devised although it is subject to change if and when other more urgent issues arise.
Although there are exceptions (Wootton Bridge was, for example undertaken in the winter given the urgency of the scheme and its impact on traffic) most structures projects are undertaken in the summer months, which provide better working conditions and many of the works are weather-dependent.
In the majority of cases the works will be undertaken without a need for a road closure, although it will be necessary in some cases to control traffic with temporary traffic signals.
While the programme will be spread across the Island, most of the work to strengthen and repair retaining walls will be concentrated in the Ventnor area as it is here that the vast majority of such walls are located. Three bridges in Carisbrooke (Clatterford Shute Footbridge, Castle Street Footbridge and Spring Walk Footbridge) will be undertaken over the same period as the solutions required are similar. In each location the materials used will be more in keeping with the rural surroundings. Where these three structures cross waterways, the headroom under the bridge will be increased to help prevent the build-up of floating debris that can lead to flooding.
“Our assessments have looked not just at identifying which structures need strengthening, we have also looked, where appropriate, to introduce solutions that will improve the appearance of the bridge or make it more effective in carrying out the purpose for which it was designed,” Ian said.
“It will be a very busy summer of work for us and the programme represents a great deal of investment in maintaining and improving the structures that form such an important – but often unnoticed – part of the Island’s highways network.”