Work to begin on new Orwell Bridge speed limits for high winds
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Long-anticipated work will start later this month to introduce new temporary speed limits on the Orwell Bridge, allowing it to stay safely open more often during high winds.
On Monday, January 25, Highways England will begin seven weeks worth of work to install new electronic signage to display speed limits which can be changed depending on the wind speed.
Currently, the speed limit for traffic travelling over the bridge is 60mph and is lowered to 50mph during high winds. However, the new system will see the limit dropped to 40mph when wind speeds are between 45-60mph.
The upgrades are part of a series of measures being taken to improve the resilience of the Orwell Bridge and the £1.7million project is backed by the findings from a year-long aerodynamic study of the bridge by City University of London.
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has been campaigning for the measures since he was elected last year and is "very pleased" to hear the news, and is hopeful the work can be finished even sooner.
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"On the whole I am very happy," he said. "I know it is a challenge completing work at this time of year and it highways workers must be safe, but I have said I am sure it would be very welcomed by those living or working in Ipswich if it were done quicker.
"If they do make their target of mid March then it will hopefully be around the same time lockdown restrictions begin to be removed and hopefully we can start our recovery and won't have this albatross of the Orwell Bridge closures causing making matters worse for trade."
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At key stages, the work will require complete closures or a reduction to the number of traffic lanes open.
The A14 eastbound from junction 55 to junction 58 will be closed overnight from 9pm to 5am for five nights, from March 1 to 5.
The A14 westbound will also be closed from junction 58 to junction 55 overnight from 9pm to 5am for five nights, from March 8 to 12.
Adam Searle, managing director of CP Transport in Felixstowe, said the work closures are a 'necessary evil for the greater good of the future'.
He added: "Anything that keeps traffic flowing is a good thing, especially keeping it out of Ipswich town centre.
"The overnight closures are really no different for us than the A14 closures we've been dealing with on the way into Felixstowe. It is a good thing."
Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs, said: “The effect of wind-related closures on the Orwell Bridge are well known and incredibly frustrating for people travelling in and around Ipswich, as well as those traveling to and from the East of the county, including the Port of Felixstowe.
"As the local highway authority for the non-A14 roads, we very much welcome the solution of the digital speed signs to allow traffic to cross the bridge safely at a reduced speed when there are strong winds.
"Closing the Orwell Bridge can cost the local economy up to £1million per day and this cannot continue to happen.”
Martin Fellows, Highways England regional director, said: “We understand the vital importance of the Orwell Bridge for people living and working in Ipswich and also for the people and businesses that depend on goods arriving and leaving the UK at the Port of Felixstowe.
"This means that we are more likely to be able to safely keep the bridge open even if it is windy, and means less congestion in town.”