Sunderland City Council has finally invited bids to design and build a revived, but simplified New Wear Crossing after scrapping original plans for a £118M bridge in July last year.
The council has said it wants contractors to build a cable-stayed structure across the River Wear between Castletown and Pallion. The bridge will carry two lanes of traffic in both directions and incorporate dedicated cycleways and footpaths.
The council has released a prequalification questionnaire (PQQ) and hopes to award the contract by summer 2015.
It had originally planned to issue the PQQ by October last year so that a new-look bridge could still be built within the original project timeframe and opened in 2015.
This would have meant picking a preferred bidder in July. It now aims to appoint a “delivery partner” by next spring.
Council bosses agreed to go back to the drawing board last July after the two bids it received for the project came in well over the £118M budget.
The original design emerged from a competition and included two complex to build, slender, curving towers up to 187m tall supporting the 336m long deck.
In February 2013 NCE confirmed that Ferrovial and Balfour Beatty had withdrawn their bids, leaving just Northern Ireland-based Graham and Vinci of France in the running.
Neither could find a way to build the bridge to budget, forcing project bosses to rethink their plans.
In July, the council’s cabinet was forced to agree that the procurement process should be “brought to an end on the basis of unaffordability”.
The council said it had made progress with the scheme and added that government had now re-committed £82.5M of funding for the project it had promised for the original scheme, as part of the Sunderland City Deal in Partnership with South Tyneside.
“The new bridge will bring Sunderland the growth and infrastructure benefits of the initial design, by reducing congestion, improving connectivity and unlocking brownfield land with its potential to increase growth, jobs and investment,” said Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson.
“Our regeneration plans are focusing on a new bridge, linking the strategic transport corridor from the Port of Sunderland, through the city centre, past our key riverside regeneration sites and out to the A19.
“Issuing the PQQ to the market is the next step towards delivering a new bridge or Sunderland.
“We are confident that the project is moving forward and the next stage is a period of dialogue. We plan to appoint a delivery partner in spring 2015.”