PLANS for a new £80million road bridge over the Wear have taken a step closer, after city council bosses invited civil engineering and construction companies to express an interest in the project.
The authority has released a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) as part of the next stage of the tendering and contract process.
The new scheme will replace the ambitious £118million “iconic” bridge, designed by North East-born architect Stephen Spence, which was originally planned to link Pallion and Castletown.
The Echo revealed last summer that council chiefs had been forced to scrap the ambitious plan after no builder could be persuaded to take it on for the budget on offer.
A Prior Information Notice (PIN) for the replacement scheme was published in March, and the council held a Market Sounding Event for more than 40 companies last month after receiving confirmation from the Government that £82.5m of funding is assured for the project.
The cash is part of the Sunderland City Deal in Partnership with South Tyneside.
Planning permission already exists for the original scheme and notices have been published this week announcing the council is revising the plans.
The aim is to award a contract for the work in summer next year.
This latest milestone is further progress towards awarding a contract by summer 2015.
City council leader, Coun Paul Watson, said: “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.
“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.”