Painful delays expected as work gets underway on major roundabout
Drivers are being warned of delays and urged to consider changing travel plans as work starts on a major roundabout later this month.
Essential repair work to the Heworth roundabout will get underway on Sunday January 28 and last for up to seven months.
The roundabout is used by an average 42,000 cars use this route every day and council chiefs say it is "inevitable" drivers will experience delays while we carry out this repair work, and are urging them to use "travel alternatives" or find a different route.
The roundabout, which is supported on a series of concrete bridges which carry the road over the Network Rail and Metro lines, has been causing structural engineers serious concern after they detected water seeping into the bridge structures last year.
Council chiefs say if left unchecked, the water could cause serious and irreparable structural damage to the bridges.
The project will mean the A184 Felling Bypass either side of Heworth roundabout will be reduced to a single lane in each direction, although efforts will be made to have two lanes in each direction whenever possible.
There will also be occasional full road closures at nights and at week-ends as required. Bus lanes will remain operational.
In addition, local access will be affected with the closure of the A185 Shields Road between Heworth roundabout and the Maiden Over pub, and between Heworth roundabout and Sunderland Road. These routes will be closed to all traffic except buses.
Low Heworth Lane, with its access to Heworth North long-stay car park, will remain open.
The work was originally scheduled to start last September, but was delayed while the council secured the necessary approvals to carry out the work.
Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for Development, Transport and Public Protection at Gateshead Council, which is responsible for the roundabout, said the major risk was "spalling", which occurs when water seeps into concrete and causes the steel reinforcing rods within the concrete to rust.
The rusting process causes the rods to expand, cracking the concrete around them and severely weakening its structural strength.
Essential repair work will involve the complete removal of the road surface to allow the bridge decks to be waterproofed and a new road surface then applied.
The work is expected to take between six and seven months to complete.
“On average, more than 42,000 cars use this route every day so it is inevitable that some motorists will experience delays while we carry out this repair work. We therefore urge motorists to explore the various travel alternatives or find a different route," said Ms Hutchinson.
“This is a major route into Tyneside and we know this is going to be unwelcome news for many commuters, but we need to act now.
“If we allow the damage being caused to these bridges to continue, we will have a much bigger problem to deal with in the future, and one that would take a lot longer and be a lot more costly to put right.
She added: “We’ve worked hard to devise plans for this complicated repair job which will minimise disruption to the public. We know this work will be especially inconvenient for residents of Pelaw and Bill Quay, but we’ve looked at all of the alternatives and all of them would have caused even greater congestion and taken longer to complete.
“Our traffic modelling shows that if we allowed traffic from Pelaw and Sunderland Road across the work area it would result in even longer traffic queues.
“We are fortunate that the area is well-served by public transport and we are retaining the bus lane along the Felling bypass, so we are urging people to plan their journey and use public transport wherever possible. Metro and train services should also be unaffected by these works.”
The work is being funded by the government’s Highways Maintenance Challenge fund.