The proposals, contained in a set of legal orders, confirm that the project is on track to deliver its main aim - an iconic new bridge with toll levels similar to Mersey Tunnel tolls.
Visible from as far away as the Pennines, and described by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) as a "project of a lifetime for all those involved", the proposed new bridge will be a unique and iconic structure that will be recognised worldwide as a symbol for the north west.
Its features will include:
- a 1,000m long cable stay bridge consisting of four spans supported from three towers in the estuary; - a unique design where the 120m high central tower will be shorter than the two 140 metre high outer towers;
- a total length (including the bridge and approach viaducts) of 2.13km;
- a deck carrying six lanes of traffic (three in each direction) with a speed limit of 60mph;
- a lower deck designed with space for a possible future tram or light rail system;
- up to 30 supporting piers carrying it across the approach viaducts; and
- a curved approach at each end of the bridge giving varying views of its unique design and maximising its visual impact.
Cllr Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Executive Board, said: “This is a giant step forward for the new bridge that will give a vital boost to the regional economy, create major regeneration opportunities and bring improved public health, and enhanced social and economic prospects to our area.
“The new bridge will deliver major benefits when it comes to tackling congestion and increasing capacity on the region’s roads, but this project has always been about delivering much more than just a new bridge. It gives us an opportunity to transform the public transport network and regenerate large areas of land to help local communities grow and develop.”
Consultant Gifford has led the design team. Gifford Partner Ian Hunt said: “This is a unique design that will result in an iconic new bridge that not only meets the needs of the people who drive across it every day, but will also be a stunning piece of engineering that will complement the historical structure of the Silver Jubilee Bridge.”
In addition to a new bridge that will become an icon for the region, the impact of the proposals includes:
- more reliable and safer traffic journeys over the River Mersey;
- a flexible tolling strategy designed to secure the best deal for residents, commuters and businesses;
demolition and removal of unnecessary road infrastructure and clearance and regeneration of large areas of land in Widnes and Runcorn to create new opportunities for leisure, housing and office premises;
- a revitalised Silver Jubilee Bridge with traffic levels reduced by 83% featuring a new ‘green corridor’ with improved public transport, cycling and walking facilities
an overall reduction in CO2 traffic emissions caused by re-routing traffic and reducing congestion;
extra capacity for the region’s fragile road network at a crucial bottleneck where it crosses the River Mersey;
- designated areas identified where compulsory purchase powers can be used to buy land required for the project to proceed.
Both the Silver Jubilee Bridge and the Mersey Gateway Bridge will be tolled as part of the project. The tolling mechanism submitted in the orders gives flexibility to the council as it allows it to work with the company that will be appointed to build and operate the new bridge to manage the toll regime. This is to pay for construction and provide the best deal for residents, commuters and businesses through the next 30 years or so (the likely duration of the concessionaire contract) and beyond.
David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council, said: “What we’re proposing is almost unique in that it is a new road scheme that will actually reduce traffic levels in 2015 and reduce CO2 emissions. The project is in line with local, regional and national policy to tackle congestion at crucial bottlenecks, and we have achieved our aim of delivering a proposal with toll levels that are comparable to other tolled crossings across the river.”
There is now a consultation/objection period, which runs until 18 July, where anyone can give their views on the project to the Mersey Gateway Project team, Halton Borough Council and the Department for Transport.