MOTORISTS and businesses face a daunting 80 weeks of disruption if one of the biggest roadworks schemes seen in recent years gets under way as planned in the spring.
Tynwald funding approval will be sought for a £4.3m scheme to reconstruct a two thirds of a mile stretch of the cracked and subsiding Peel Road, all the way from Quarter Bridge roundabout to the Brown Bobby junction with Circular Road.
Drivers face a year and a half of disruption when this main arterial route is made one-way only – for traffic heading into Douglas - from Quarter Bridge to Pulrose Road.
At the same time, the section from Pulrose Road to the Brown Bobby will be reduced to two lanes, one in each direction.
Access will be maintained for businesses on Peel Road while the scheme is carried out – but traders are worried.
David Talbot of Walton’s said: ‘The obvious concern relates to the fact that there will be a definite disincentive for passing trade when they hear the news to avoid Peel Road. It’s going to be extremely difficult for traders. The department is working hard to minimise the problems.’
Director of highways Richard Pearson said: ‘We are not in denial - there will be some impact on businesses. We are trying to minimise the impact on businesses and the travelling public but we can’t really make it any less without making the costs really astronomical.’ He said that Peel Road, which has had no major repairs for more than 25 years, has ‘demonstrably the worst ride quality of any strategic route in the island’. The road surface was severely cracked, the concrete slab sub-base had shifted and there was significant subsidence, he explained.
There were obvious problems with drainage, too, with the road prone to localised flooding. ‘It really is a switch back,’ he said. ‘It’s obvious this road is in dire straits and presents the island in a bad light. Peel Road and the promenades are an embarrassment and we would be doing the island a disservice if we didn’t do anything about them.’
So bad is its roller coaster ride that Bus Vannin’s Mercedes single deckers had to have their suspension raised by 20mm to stopped them grounding.
Mr Pearson said: ‘The scheme could be done much quicker if we could close the whole of the road. But given the critical nature of that route it would not be reasonable or acceptable to do that. We have to approach it on a piecemeal fashion.’
He said that with no real alternative routes to the section from Pulrose Road to the Brown Bobby, it had been decided to incur the extra cost and time of keeping a lane open in each direction.
But the other stretch from Quarter Bridge to Pulrose Bridge serves many businesses as well as the island’s main fire station.
With this stretch made one-way for Douglas-bound traffic only, access will be maintained with vehicles being allowed to turn right.
Mr Pearson said effectively a gyratory would be created flowing in a clockwise direction. He said that Quarter Bridge would actually flow better, although there may be more congestion on New Castletown Road. He said a scheme to simply resurface the road would have cost just £1 million and taken just four to eight weeks but he argued this would not represent value for public money as the subsidence problems would mean the works would have to be done again in five years.
The first seven weeks of the scheme will be less disruptive and involve strengthening the old railway bridge on Pulrose Road and making the radius of the left hand turn into that road less acute.
The highways director said the scheme would help the island’s construction industry as over 40 per cent of the scheme will be carried out by the private sector.
Contractors will dig down to depth of just over 2ft, replacing the concrete slabs with a new stone sub-base. The old concrete will be recycled for use on the cycle path running along the route of the former railway line from the TT access road to Crosby.
He said it was hoped the scheme would start in the spring. But he added: ‘We are still working through the approval process for the scheme which will include a Tynwald vote.’
Construction cost of the scheme is £4.3 million, with design fees on top.
Mr Pearson said that in October, 97 letters were hand-delivered to businesses on Peel Road to get a better idea of their requirements. He said there had been nearly 150 visits since then and traders would be given a direct point of contact with the department via Mike Davies on 662155.
He said the department would be willing to consider funding marketing initiatives to help traders during the roadworks to ensure that people knew they were still open for business.