15 January 2006

Avoiding bumper to bumper chaos

Sunday Life

Sinead McCavana
15 January 2006

What roadworks are planned?

The road improvements will create three continuous traffic lanes on the M1 and Westlink between Black's Road (junction three) and Divis Street junctions.

The works will involve:

--Widening the M1 and Westlink to provide a continuous, dual three-lane road from Stockman's Lane to Divis Street

--Replacing the bridges at Stockman's Lane junction

--Constructing a dual, three-lane underpass at Broadway and partial underpass at Grosvenor Road (following construction, access will only be permitted between the Grosvenor Road and Westlink to the south of the junction)

--Modifying the Roden Street/Mulhouse Road signalised junction.

What benefits will the project bring?

The road improvements will reduce the existing congestion on the M1/Westlink and make the road safer and journey times shorter and more reliable. This will benefit all road users, including freight and public transport.

Will traffic be affected during construction?

Yes. Construction of a major project such as this has the potential to cause significant disruption to traffic throughout Belfast and beyond.

There is little opportunity to provide alternative routes during construction for the 65,000 vehicles that use the Westlink each day, as many of these alternative routes are already congested. Therefore, it will be necessary to accommodate traffic through the works.

What temporary traffic arrangements will be in place during construction?

Two traffic lanes will be maintained in each direction through the works from 6am to 10pm Monday-to-Saturday and 11am to 10pm on Sundays.

These lanes may be narrower than normal and subject to a reduced speed limit.

Sections of the M1, Westlink or connecting roads will be closed occasionally.

Road closures will generally be at night or at weekends.

Signs advising of road closures will be displayed at least one week in advance of each closure.

The contractor will be charged for each lane closure in order to limit the number of closures.

In addition, the Roads Service has:

--Installed extra CCTV cameras to monitor traffic through the works and on adjoining roads

--Extended the urban traffic control area where the traffic signals are controlled centrally by traffic information and control centre.

Will alternative routes be available?

Yes. Signed alternative routes will be available for traffic with destinations beyond Belfast.

Variable message signs positioned at key junctions will inform drivers of current traffic conditions through the road works and help them to make an informed choice about their route.

Traffic progression along alternative routes will be improved by:

--Introducing traffic signals at the Milltown, Belvoir and hospital roads junctions

--Improving the Hillhall Road/Glen Road junction

--Restricting other planned works along alternative routes during construction of the M1/Westlink Project

--Improvements to the M1 Saintfield Road roundabout and Largymore Link.

What will happen at Stockman's Lane, Broadway, Roden Street, Grosvenor Road and Divis Street?

The start of the road works at Stockman's Lane roundabout will have traffic signals introduced to improve the capacity of this junction.

Broadway will remain as a traffic signal junction during the construction period, although the layout of the junction will alter as the work progresses. Full access will be maintained to all roads at Broadway junction.

The Roden Street junction will be modified, with traffic only permitted to turn left in and left out of Mulhouse Road.

No access will be permitted between Westlink and Grosvenor Road during construction. A temporary bridge will be constructed to carry Grosvenor Road traffic over the Westlink.

During construction of the road improvement works full access will be maintained between Westlink and Divis Street junction.

The Roads Service will provide enhanced traffic and travel information by:

--Measuring journey times through the works and using this information to advise drivers about traffic conditions and help them to make informed choices about their journey

--Installing variable message signs at key junctions (see alternative routes map)

--Providing variable message signs at exits from the Port of Belfast

--Providing driver information signs at least one week in advance of road closures and changes in temporary traffic arrangements

--Providing travel and road works information in local papers, the Roads Service traffic information and control centre website (www.trafficwatchni.com) and radio traffic bulletins

--Extending the current email traffic information distribution service.

What public transport measures will be introduced?

Since June 2005, the capacity of the Portadown to Belfast rail service has been increased by up to 50pc.

During construction, the existing M1 motorway hard shoulder bus lane and bus priority facility, between Broadway and Roden Street, will be maintained for Belfast-bound buses.

In addition, public transport facilities on the southern approach to Belfast will be enhanced by progressing the development of:

--Park and ride sites along the M1 motorway corridor

--Additional bus capacity to serve new park and ride sites

--Bus priority measures on the M1 motorway between Lisburn and Stockman's Lane junction.

--To register for active notification email alert from the Roads Service traffic information and control centre, fill in an online form at www.roadsni.gov.uk/westlinktrafficalert.

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