Gantries go in for £88m motorway scheme
ANOTHER milestone will be reached tomorrow night when the first overhead gantry is installed as part of an £88-million managed motorway scheme at the Almondsbury interchange near Bristol.
The 160ft-long gantry is one of 33 which will be used to give information to drivers about mandatory speed limits and which lanes to use. A further seven existing gantries are being upgraded to take new signs.
Seven miles of the M4 and M5, either side of the interchange, will be governed by variable speed limits.
The hard shoulders will be brought into use during busy periods.
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Speed cameras on the gantries will be used to make sure drivers do not travel too fast.
Managed motorways in other parts of the country have reduced congestion and cut down on the number of accidents.
The motorways around the interchange are among the busiest in Britain with nearly 300,000 vehicles using them every day.
Paul Unwin, project manager of the scheme, said it would give drivers more reliable journey times, increase the capacity for more vehicles and create savings worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
He said: "The new gantries will hold the signs and signals that will convey vital road information to drivers.
"Their sheer size means that a full motorway closure is essential to give us access for delivery and installation."
He could not promise that traffic jams during the peak holiday periods would be banished completely but they are not expected to be as common as they are now.
He said for every pound that was spent on the scheme, there was a saving of £8.
This was partly due to the economic benefits of firms staying in the area or re-locating because of the more reliable journey times and savings in time and fuel.
Work on the scheme started in January and is not expected to finish until the spring of 2014 although there is a chance it might be completed before then.
Once the 30-tonne gantries have been installed, work will begin on installing 30 miles of cabling, fibre optics and sensors in the lanes.
Once completed, there will be a six-month testing of all the computer software to ensure the scheme works properly.
The construction work means traffic is currently reduced to a 50mph speed limit for safety reasons.
Mr Unwin said this had already begun to ease traffic congestion and reduce the number of accidents in the area.