Other options for Orwell crossing dismissed as bridge plans developed
PUBLISHED: 11:44 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:08 22 January 2018
Building the Orwell Bridge was only one of three options considered when an Ipswich by-pass was first seriously considered in the 1970s, the former chief executive of Suffolk County Council has revealed.
But it was the only option that made sense – putting the new road to the north of Ipswich would have required a dual carriageway or motorway to be built near the town centre.
Clifford Smith was chief executive of the county council from its establishment in 1974 until he retired in 1990. He still lives in the county – at Woodbridge.
He has been following the current debate about a possible northern by-pass – and recalled the discussions there had been about a route for the new road before work started.
He said: “There were three options that were looked at. The Orwell Bridge that was eventually built, a tunnel under the river or a new road to the north of the town.
“The tunnel was not realistic because of problems of siting the portals – it would have had to be quite long to carry vehicles under the river and there were major technical problems.
“The northern route would not have carried anywhere near as much traffic as the route that was built, and it would not have allowed the expansion of Ipswich that we have seen.”
Mr Smith said the design of the bridge needed a great deal of care because it goes over a busy shipping lane.
He said: “I read one person said the problem was that the bridge was so high that wind speeds can cause problems. The bridge is actually as low as it could be – it has to be high enough to give free passage to vessels travelling to an from the Port of Ipswich and we had a great deal of work to do in persuading the authorities that the bridge would not be an obstacle.”
Mr Smith was chief executive when the first proposals to build a northern by-pass were discussed in the late 1980s and early 1990s – but the opposition from people living to the north of Ipswich was so strong that the proposal was eventually dropped and land bought for the new road was sold off.
The county council is now looking to build a northern relief road which would help to open up land for development across northern Ipswich – but while it would ease traffic it is unlikely to be as fast at the A14 to the south.