£100million-plus Sutton Bridge plan for new crossing
A £100 million-plus project is needed to build a new A17 crossing at Sutton Bridge, according to leading councillors.
Members of Lincolnshire County Council’s executive agreed on Tuesday to a four-month project to paint and repair Cross Keys Swing Bridge - which will bring traffic congestion early next year - but vowed it’s now time to look to the future.
The road is a key strategic east/west route for businesses and tourists - and there’s a fear that the 1897 bridge won’t cope with carrying heavy traffic for too many years to come.
Members agreed that the Department for Transport ought to consider funding a replacement structure.
Leader Martin Hill said: “This needs to be on the national radar as something which is of high importance.”
Council executive director Andy Gutherson told the meeting that the project would cost ‘well in excess’ of £100 million, as a ‘ball park’ figure.
Colin Davie, executive councillor for economic development, said the bridge is a ‘critical piece of infrastructure’ and that the campaign to replace it needs to begin now.
He added: “The Government needs to understand that this bridge isn’t going to last forever. We need to be on the front foot on this rather than scrambling for the solution.”
After the meeting, Sutton Bridge councillors told the Spalding Guardian that an expensive new bridge would be a waste of money.
For now, executive members did agree to paint and maintain Cross Keys Swing Bridge - which could cost about £1.5 million.
The work is due to start at the end of February and could last until the beginning of July, with the main paint job done in the spring/summer.
While painting is carried out - and maintenance to the turret - traffic will be reduced to one lane, something which has caused long queues in the past. Council structures engineer Richard Waters told members that the ‘vast majority’ of businesses in the area prefer traffic light controlled lane closures to a full shutting of the bridge - which would require a long diversion via Wisbech.
He said during working hours the lights would be man-operated, explaining: “We can switch to green in one direction and hold it for ten minutes to clear a huge backlog of traffic.”
The aim is to carry out the work before the school summer holidays and well ahead of harvest.
The work needs specialist contractors and the bridge suffers corrosion due to marine salt of the tidal River Nene - as well as road salt from winter driving.
As well as traffic, the bridge will need to swing open to allow access for boats.
Mr Waters said: “By law we cannot obstruct the passage of vessels into Wisbech - and also we wouldn’t want to in terms of the economy.”
There’s also a limit to how much scaffolding can be put up at once during the project.
Mr Waters explained: “It could effectively act as a sail and swing the bridge faster than you wanted to.”
The council says it will try to avoid a clash with planned works in Wisbech and is in talks with Cambridgeshire County Council. As a ‘last resort’ the work may have to be delayed for a year.