The new Mersey Gateway Bridge could open to traffic as early as mid-September.
Merseylink, the construction consortium building the new bridge, has re-assessed the programme for the remaining works and has said that the new bridge could open in a few weeks time if the weather allows the final elements of work to progress quickly.
It is anticipated the Mersey Gateway Bridge will open no later than mid-October weather permitting. The team will be able to give a definitive date around five days ahead of opening.
This will mean the project is opening ahead of time and within budget after a three-and-a-half-year construction programme that has seen major roads across Widnes and Runcorn re-routed and improved.
The 1,000 metre long Mersey Gateway Bridge is the centrepiece of the Mersey Gateway Project, which covers around nine kilometres of road improvements and a series of major new junctions running throughout Runcorn and Widnes.
What happens as the new bridge opens?
The new bridge will open to traffic at midnight on its opening day, with the Silver Jubilee Bridge being closed just beforehand.
The new and improved link roads connecting the new bridge to the M56 and the main route towards Liverpool and the M62 will open at the same time.
In the hours leading up to the midnight opening Halton Borough Council will mark the event with a special fireworks display from the new bridge.
Once the new bridge opens, tolls will be in place immediately.
The bridge will use a free flow tolling system – so there will be no toll booths – which will keep traffic moving quickly across the route. Dedicated cameras and sensors will read vehicle number plates and special merseyflow stickers to charge drivers.
Anyone who doesn’t pay by midnight the day after they cross will receive a penalty charge.
Anyone who wants to register for discounts but hasn’t yet done so is being urged to register at www.merseyflow.co.uk as soon as possible to ensure they have their special sticker in time for the new bridge opening.
The Silver Jubilee Bridge will be closed for around 12 months of major refurbishment work, but will remain open to cyclists and pedestrians during this time.
There will be about a year’s worth of landscaping and other work to be finished off after the bridge opens, including the removal of the temporary trestle bridge across the river, the planting of trees and shrubs along the route and the reinstatement of the saltmarsh on both sides of the river.
Hugh O’Connor, General Manager of Merseylink, said: “All along we said we’d be opening in autumn 2017 and it is great to be able to keep that promise. We’ll update everyone with a firmer date as we get closer to opening but we’re confident that we will open by mid-October at the latest. Much of our final work is weather dependent, but we will be able to give a definitive date around five days ahead of opening.
He added: “I’d like to thank everyone who drives through the local area for their patience over the past three and half years and must pay tribute to everyone who has worked tirelessly on the new bridge and on the road network and approach roads across Halton.”
Cllr. Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “This is excellent news – the contractors and all involved in the construction effort are doing a phenomenal job to deliver this bridge on time. The Mersey Gateway Project is an incredible feat of engineering and will be a landmark for our region for years to come. We are already seeing its impact as a catalyst for regeneration and economic investment in the area and it will mean that drivers of 27 million vehicles every year have quicker, easier and more reliable journeys across the Mersey.”
Both the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, and, when it re-opens, the Silver Jubilee Bridge will be tolled