Highways bosses are to explore the possibility of securing government funding for multi-million pound repairs to a series of bridges on a major road in Lancaster.
If work on the structures on the A601(M) does not go ahead, it is feared that weight restrictions would have to be introduced on the route – sending heavy goods vehicles on a 21-mile diversion. In a worst-case scenario, it is possible that the route might have to be closed completely.
The 1.3-mile dual carriageway connects the M6 at junction 35 to the A6 – and is part of the official diversion for when the M6 between junctions 35 and 36 is closed. It is also a major route for HGVs, providing access to the Truck Haven service station.
If weight limits were imposed, HGVs would have to take a lengthy detour via junction 36 of the motorway – because the more local option of the B6254 is also unsuitable for larger vehicles.
If all traffic had to be diverted in the event of a complete closure of the A601(M), motorists would be sent through parts of central Carnforth – which is already a designated air quality management area.
The road includes five bridges along its length and papers presented to Lancashire County Council’s cabinet reveal that they require “significant work to ensure their continued use”.
"Without intervention, it is expected that some form of traffic restriction will be required in the form of weight limits, lane restrictions or even full closure," the report notes.
The authority will submit an “expression of interest” for £9.2m from the government’s Local Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund. County Hall would contribute £1.8m towards the cost of the scheme, which would include complete resurfacing of the route.
The Department for Transport will assess all the proposed schemes and then invite successful local authorities to submit business cases to show the detail of their plans.
The county council’s proposal for the A601(M) includes refurbishment and repair of the Brewers Barn West, Brewers Barn East and Elpha bridges.
The Brewers Barn West widening bridge would be removed, while the structure at Higher North Road would be replaced with a new type of junction at Nether Beck. The latter change would result in the route losing its “special road” status – meaning the “(M)” in its title would be dropped.
Highways bosses at County Hall expect that the Department for Transport will recognise the proposed scheme as representing "high value for money".