Orwell Bridge set for weeks of closures ahead of new high winds system
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
The Orwell Bridge is set for weeks of overnight closures as Highways England installs a new system hoped to minimise closures due to high winds.
Work on installing a new communication system – which includes electronic signs that display changeable speed limits during high winds – began last month, although Highways England say motorists have been ignoring temporary speed limits while crews have been working.
Highways England said the situation is of a "serious concern" and overnight closures lasting until mid-March will now be enforced to ensure work can be completed safely.
The overnight closures will apply every weekday until March 12, with one carriageway closed at a time during each phase between 10pm and 6am.
The closures will stretch from junction 55 for Copdock and junction 58 for Seven Hills.
The westbound carriageway will be closed tonight (Wednesday, February 17), with the eastbound carriageway closing every weekday from Thursday, until Wednesday (February 24).
The westbound carriageway will again close next Thursday and Friday, before work switches to the eastbound carriageway between March 1 and March 5.
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Work will complete with the final closure on the westbound carriageway from March 8 to March 12.
Altogether, the works are set to cost £1.7million and follow a nine-month aerodynamic study carried out in partnership with City, University of London.
Current procedures mean the bridge must close when crosswinds reach speeds of 50mph or more; however, the new systems will see the bridge stay open as long as motorists drop their speed to 40mph.
The threshold for the bridge's closure has been raised to speeds higher than 60mph.
The plans have been praised by business leaders and Ipswich MP Tom Hunt – with each day the bridge is closed costing the Ipswich economy £1m and hours of severe traffic disruption.
Diversions will follow the usual routes routes along the A1214, Yarmouth Road, Chevallier Street, Valley Road, Colchester Road, Woodbridge Road and Main Road, before entering the A12.
As many as 60,000 vehicles travel over the bridge every day, providing a vital crossing not only for residents of Ipswich, but also for the constant flow of hauliers travelling to and from the Port of Felixstowe.