Stonebridge strengthening works
Bridge strengthening works have taken place Stonebridge in Darlington town centre to safeguard the future of this important and historic bridge.
There will be additional aesthetic works to the bridge over the summer of 2016, but these are not expected to cause any disruption to traffic, but may require occasional footpath closures.
There has been a bridge across the River Skerne on the site of the current bridge since 1343 and the bridge is an important link in the highway network. The current bridge is over 120 years old and certain elements of the bridges structure are suffering from corrosion and need to be strengthened.
Why were the works necessary?
If the strengthening works had not been carried out then the council would have been forced to apply ‘Weak Bridge’ restrictions to the bridge. This would mean heavier vehicles like buses and lorries could not use the bridge. The bridge is an important link in the town’s bus network, with every bus service in the borough crossing over the bridge on their way in and out of the town centre so a weak bridge restriction would cause major problems for HGVs and delivery vehicles as well as for buses and bus passengers. In the longer term, the bridge may need to be closed to all traffic, if the work is not carried out.
Why are we doing the works now?
The cost of carrying out the bridge strengthening works is very expensive and the council has had to secure additional funding from central government to pay for the works. The council made a successful bid the Department for Transports Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund, and was one of only 23 councils in England to receive funding. The money from central government must be spent by April 2016 and can only be spent on Stonebridge. The council is funding some additional works after March 2016 but these will be funded from the councils own resources.
Will there be much disruption?
The council is putting traffic management plans in place to ensure that traffic can still move freely through and around the town centre. These arrangements will be kept under review to check that they are working properly. While the strengthening works are underway the bridge will be closed to all traffic except buses and taxis, which will be able to use the bridge in one direction. Other traffic will be diverted to use alternative routes, including East Street which will be opened to two way traffic while work is underway. By putting these measures in place the council is ensuring that the town centre remains fully accessible and open for business while the works are completed.
Pedestrians and Cyclists
A pedestrian footpath will be kept open at all times during the works and cyclists will still be able to use the bridge when exiting the town centre, however they will have to use an alternative route via either Leadyard Bridge or Priestgate to travel into the town centre.
The 70 Buses an hour that currently exit the town centre via the bridge will still be able to do so. The small number of buses that use the bridge in the opposite direction will be diverted to enter the town via Northgate. Stopping arrangements in the town centre remain unchanged for all services.
National Express, National Holidays and other tour operator coaches will still be able to use Feethams to access the coach stop adjacent to the Dolphin Centre. Coaches will then access the Inner Ring Road via Stonebridge. The number of coaches are significantly reduced during the winter months.
Stonebridge is relatively lightly used by other traffic, at peak times about 300 cars use the bridge, mostly to access the Cornmill and East Street car parks, but at other times of day the number is much lower. Cars will be able to use East Street to access the Cornmill and East Street car parks, or alternatively they can use Feethams.
Taxis will be allowed to use Stonebridge to exit the town centre and will still be able to access the taxi rank at the market place; however they will have to use either East Street or Feethams to gain access to the town centre.
Heavy Goods Vehicles
HGVs will be able to access the town centre via Feethams and for the duration of the works HGVs will also be allowed to access the town via Northgate between 10am and 5pm which is normally restricted to buses and taxis only.
Effects on disabled parking
Unfortunately to ensure the alternative access arrangements work it will be necessary to suspend 3 disabled parking bays on East Street. This is to ensure that East Street can accommodate two way traffic.
All car parks will remain open. Access to East Street car park will remain unchanged. Drivers will be able to drive to the Cornmill car park either via Feethams or using East Street, which will be opened to two-way traffic to enable drivers to access Crown Street.