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One of Southampton's main landmarks is line for a massive overhaul as engineers prepare to literally lift up the Itchen Bridge.
Southampton City Council has tasked Capita Symonds with making the 62,000 tonne city bridge safer and more user friendly.
The work to the bridge will be undertaken by Freyssinet Limited, and will include literally 'jacking up' the bridge, in an impressive feat of engineering.
Councillor Matthew Dean, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said:
"The Itchen Bridge is a Southampton land mark. More than 19,000 motorists use the bridge every day and enjoy the spectacular views from it. However the bearings on the bridge are old and are in need of replacing. The bridge has also become very outdated so this is a good opportunity to do something about it.
"It's not an easy task though. To replace the bearings in the lift we will need to jack up the structure, which will be an impressive feat of engineering."
Up to four, two feet thick, hydraulic cylinders will be used to jack up the bridge, segment by segment, by between one and two millimetres. Each cylinder is capable of pushing up a force of more than 600 tonnes, the equivalent to 600 minis.
Everything possible will be done to ensure the works, which cost £1million and start today, and finish in March 2011, are mitigated as much a possible. This will include:
-Doing the vast majority of work outside of peak hours.
-Ensuring two way traffic is maintained whenever possible.
-Making sure closures of the bridge to vehicular traffic will be at night, or on occasional Sundays.
-Ensuring that the footways remain accessible on at least one side of the bridge at all times.
The vast majority of the work will be carried out from beneath the structure, so there will frequently be times when there is no obvious work force visible on the bridge.
At times the traffic lane widths will need to be restricted; and where necessary, for safety reasons, the cycle lanes will be suspended. Motorists and cyclists should therefore take extra care to ensure that they are using the road space appropriately.
The main span of the Bridge, which opened in June 1977, is 800 metres long and 28 metres above water level.