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3 October 2011, 12:36 | Updated: 3 October 2011, 12:42
Eight weeks of roadworks have started on Bedford's St Mary's Street over fears the road surface could collapse.
Bedford Borough Council say "although the road surface between Duckmill Lane and the junction with Cauldwell Street appears in reasonable condition, the surface conceals problems in the roads foundations caused by inadequate drainage."
The road now needs to be completely rebuilt and resurfaced. Work began on Monday 3 October 2011 and is due to take eight weeks.
St Mary’s St and the Town Bridge will be closed northbound towards St Paul’s Square and the town centre throughout the works. Southbound traffic will be reduced to one lane.
Charles Royden, Portfolio Holder for the Environment and Transport, said "When the former County Council last repaired the road they did not tackle existing drainage problems and simply improved the road surface. As a result the ongoing drainage problems have weakened the structure of the road causing severe surface problems and leaving an unacceptable risk that the road will actually collapse.
"This is a safety issue requiring urgent work now to avoid the possibility of a more serious carriageway failure in the future. Because this is one of our major town centre roads leading to Bedford’s historic town bridge we have to get these repairs done and we will do them properly.
"Nobody wants to have to cause this disruption but these works are vital, requiring major reconstruction and the installation of new drains.
"When we are carrying out road repairs we always try to minimise disruption to users by working outside of peak hours, such as overnight. This is not possible with this scheme as the amount of work required means it must be carried out during the day. Similarly, the depth of excavations required to rebuild the road means we cannot open the road outside of the working hours.
"I urge drivers to avoid the area if at all possible. If anyone has to drive into the town centre they should follow the signed diversion routes which we are putting in place to reduce disruption.
"We are sorry for the inconvience this will cause but I would like to reassure local residents this work is absolutely vital and will prevent more serious work being needed in the near future and provide a better long term surface."
Work will be carried out at the site between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday, however the traffic restrictions will remain in place 24 hours a day because the reconstruction of the road will prevent vehicles from using the road outside of these hours.
To try and make sure the new road will last as long as possible, a new drainage system will also be installed on the eastern side of the carriageway, as well as a new footpath. Further minor works are scheduled for the western pathway but these will take place after Christmas.
Full diversion routes will be signposted around the town centre and on major routes around the Borough. Drivers who need to travel into the town centre are being asked to follow the signed diversion routes.
The Council say they have already written to people living in the area and businesses to inform them of the works and provide them with contact details should they have any further queries.
The Council say the works have been scheduled alongside other major projects on Goldington Road and Dame Alice St and are scheduled to finish before the peak Christmas shopping period.