Drivers can breathe a sigh of relief as roadworks come to an end at one of the North East's busiest junctions.
Essential repairs to the Heworth roundabout will be completed at 5.30am tomorrow morning, and the junction will reopen to full traffic.
Work to repair the supporting bridges under the road has meant this busy junction being reduced to single carriageway, with full road closures at nights and at weekends, and the partial closure of the A185 Shields Road between Pelaw and Sunderland Road.
The project, which began in January, caused a major headache for drivers, causing delays on the Felling bypass and forcing drivers to take inconvenient detours.
Now, with all repairs completed and the road resurfaced, the junction is now ready to re-open to full traffic.
Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for Development, Transport and Public Protection at Gateshead Council, said: “We are delighted that we’ve been able to re-open this junction eight weeks earlier than planned.
“This is a major route into Tyneside and we were fully aware of the delays and inconvenience these works were going to cause to residents and commuters. That’s why we gave a commitment right at the start to get these works completed as quickly as possible. By re-opening this juction eight weeks early, I’m delighted to say we’ve done just that.
Hutchinson said the council used its own teams as much as it could on the project, allowing the authority to "throw a lot of resources" into the works, with crews working long shifts, at weekends and overnight, to get the job done as fast as possible.
"I’d like to thank them for their considerable effort and dedication," she said. “We expect motorists to notice little real difference to their journeys. This was never about improving the junction but about protecting their structures under the road and safeguarding them for another 40 years or so.
We did take the opportunity to upgrade this junction by removing the redundant roundabout to smooth the flow of traffic along the Felling bypass, and improve road safety by upgrading other features such as pedestrian crossings, street lighting, crash barriers and traffic controls.
She added: “If we allowed the damage that was being caused to these bridges to continue, we would have had a much bigger problem to deal with in the future, and one that would have taken a lot longer, and cost a lot more, to put right. What we have done is safeguard the Felling bypass, one of Tyneside’s busiest roads, for the future.
“We will now be working closely with our traffic management team to monitor the flow of traffic across this junction to ensure that we have the timings of the traffic lights optimised."
Why was the work carried out?
The A184 / A185 junction on the Felling bypass at Heworth is supported on a series of concrete bridges which carry the road over the Network Rail and Metro lines and these were causing structural engineers serious concern after they detected water seeping into the bridge structures last year. If left unchecked, this water could have caused serious and irreparable structural damage to the bridges.
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 involved the complete removal of the road surface to allow the bridge decks to be waterproofed and a new road surface then applied. The work began in late January and was expected to take between six and seven months to complete.
To enable the work to be completed, the A184 Felling Bypass either side of the Heworth roundabout was reduced to a single lane in each direction, with occasional full road closures at nights and at week-ends.
In addition, local access to Pelaw was severely affected with the closure of the A185 Shields Road between the Maiden Over pub and Sunderland Road.