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11 November 2014, 12:33
Central Bridge in Southampton has reopened to traffic today (November 11) after being closed for months of repairs which took longer than expected.
The newly watertight bridge road layout has been designed to allow traffic to access the Itchen Bridge from Terminus Terrace.
It has a new two-way cycleway, along Marsh Lane - part of the Eastern Cycle Route, providing a more direct and safer route from Woolston to the city centre via both Central and Itchen bridges.
The new European style Saltmarsh Junction completes the new traffic arrangements in this part of the city. The council says junction will enable safer and more efficient crossing of the junction for cyclists and motorists alike.
Information on how to use the innovative system is in place on site until December and available online at http://www.discoversouthampton.co.uk/future/transport-projects/bridges.
In 2014 Southampton City Council received £2.4 million ‘pinch point’ funding to refurbish the city’s bridge network; to prepare and protect them for the future.
As a vital direct route from the east to the city centre, the Grade II listed Victorian structure is some 133 years old.
It had deteriorated in recent years, prompting the need to waterproof the structure, which was to be undertaken through the complete stripping back of the road surface, laying a waterproofing membrane and then rebuilding the road.
However, this did not prove to be as simple as expected!
The bridge has been a critical part of Southampton’s road network since it opened in 1881. During World War II it provided a main route to and from the city, which was of significant strategic military importance; as the home of the spitfire and for the docks’ role in handling military cargo to help keep the Allied forces at the Front supplied. This made it a bombing target, and it was hit numerous times during the course of the war.
During the works, a number of obstacles were unearthed in the process, including a variety of historical anomalies:
• The century old drawings of the structure, being used for reference, turned out not to be complete accurate, and the team uncovered many new additions, including former pedestrian recesses and accesses, previously unknown.
• The excavation of what was initially believed to be an unexploded military ordnance (an unexploded bomb!). Thankfully, the discovery turned out to be part of the repairs carried out after the war, but that in itself caused additional and unexpected difficulties.
• Several large cracks were uncovered alongside one wall of the bridge requiring further investigation to identify the repairs necessary to stabilise it.
• The post war repairs were not well documented and were carried out using a variety of materials.
The unexpected anomalies in the bridge design meant the planned waterproof membrane could not be used and an alternative solution had to be negotiated with English Heritage before work could continue. The phantom bomb although exciting did not delay the works but the structural crack did finally push the programme several weeks back on planned opening.
Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “I am pleased that this extensive and challenging project is now complete and that the people of Southampton will benefit from the improvements made.
"This project was huge undertaking, not made easier by the challenges along the way; but it is, however, now complete and will stand firm for many years to come.
"I am particularly proud of the innovations made within this project, in particular the improved connectivity for cyclists.
"The distance to cycle from Woolston to the city centre is now some 200m shorter, and the navigation of Saltmarsh Junction is now safer and more efficient.”