New temporary restrictions on some heavy goods vehicles using Wootton Bridge are expected to be in place later this week.
The new measures follow news that weight and speed restrictions are required on the road across the bridge, until strengthening measures are undertaken. Approvals given by the key authorities mean these restrictions are expected to be in place by the end of this week (24 July 2015).
Wootton Bridge is subject to inspections every six years as well as biennial assessments to determine its condition. These can also trigger additional assessments, if notable changes in condition are identified. It is these assessments that have given rise for concern and identified the need to put in place measures to limit the speed and weight of traffic travelling across the bridge.
Island Roads has been working closely with the Technical Approval Authority to look at ways in which it can keep the bridge open to the majority of traffic by introducing some short term, interim measures to mitigate against a reduction in the load capacity of the bridge. Approval for this work has now been secured and work will start on the bridge this week to put these short-term measures in place.
From Tuesday (21 July) a 20mph restriction will come into force for all traffic travelling between Firestone Copse Road at Kite Hill, to New Road in Wootton village. This is not expected to impact greatly on traffic movements.
Work to implement the interim repair solutions will then be undertaken overnight on Thursday (23 July) to minimise disruption. The work will be undertaken under a road closure to allow both surfacing work to be carried out – which will help with the load bearing capacity of the bridge – and the installation of weight limit signage. Diversions will be in place overnight for vehicles. The road will close at 6.30pm and is then expected to re-open early on Friday 24 July, with an 18 tonne weight limit and speed restrictions in place.
The 18 tonne (maximum gross weight) restriction identified will not affect the majority of residents and visitors, with buses, cars and vans still able to use this route. However, vehicles over this limit, for example multi axle heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and multi-axle coaches will need to follow the diversion routes.
In readiness for the restrictions, a diversion route that already carries HGV traffic has been identified, and appropriate ‘Overweight Vehicles’ diversion route signage is being put in place. This route will be via Binstead, Ryde, Brading, Sandown, Lake, and Arreton.
Island Roads has also liaised with a number of organisations potentially affected by the restrictions to keep them informed of the situation. Both the fire service and waste lorries have in place alternative plans for the heavier of their vehicles during this time that will ensure services can still be delivered effectively to local residents, and ferry companies are being provided with copies of the diversion routes to alert drivers.
Island Roads will continue to monitor the situation as well as carrying on with work on a design for a long-term solution to strengthen the bridge. The cost of this permanent solution will be met by Island Roads under the PFI contract, and will not fall to the Isle of Wight Council.
Kevin Burton, Island Roads Network Manager, said: “We have sought to create a short-term solution that still maintains the use of the bridge for the vast majority of drivers however we recognise that these restrictions will be disruptive for some drivers and potentially for those communities on the diversion routes and will continue to do all that we can to keep people informed. However, it is a necessary step that we are obliged to take to ensure the safety of road users and to prevent the bridge from deteriorating further.
“Naturally, we are also working on a longer term solution and, while strengthening old masonry arches can be challenging in engineering terms, we are very confident such a scheme can be implemented. However Wootton Bridge itself lies close to an area of environmental sensitivity so we will have to obtain permissions and consents from other agencies before any scheme is undertaken – a process that may take some time. However, we will work with our engineers and all of the relevant agencies to ensure a longer term solution can be implemented as soon as practicable.”
Councillor Phil Jordan executive member for the Highways PFI said: “It is unfortunate that this has come as we enter the summer holiday period, however, safety of users of the bridge is paramount, especially with a potential increase in traffic levels over the summer.
“I would also like to appeal to those vehicles required to follow the diversion route not to attempt to drive over the Downs Road and to please follow the diversion in place.”